Ashers Bakery decision should cause alarm
The Evangelical Alliance is surprised and disappointed by the decision of the Equality Commission to proceed to court with the case against Ashers Baking Co.
Peter Lynas commented, "This decision is very worrying. Having taken further legal advice the Commission now claims Ashers are guilty of religious and political discrimination as well as the original grounds of sexual orientation. This should concern everyone, not just Christians –it is a challenge to the very fabric of Northern Ireland society. We are talking about the loss of religious and political freedom. This is an attempt to privatise religion and exclude it from the public square. The Commission is deciding which political and religious views are acceptable and which are not."
"Ashers have made clear that they did not know the sexual orientation of the person ordering the cake. Even if the Commission itself had ordered the cake they would have declined to make it. Ashers were discriminating against an idea not a person. The law allows the first, while rightly preventing the second."
"The Commission now appears to be arguing that certain views on same-sex marriage may be grounds for political discrimination. This is strange as the Commission itself supports same-sex marriage, making it no longer neutral on this issue."
"Finally, it is reported that the Commission is accusing Ashers of religious discrimination as their decision was motivated by their faith. This is a clear attempt to remove faith from the workplace. It is simply unbelievable that the Equality Commission is taking such steps."
Peter Lynas continued, "Regardless of one's views on gay marriage, this case should unite all those who believe in civil and religious liberty. We hope that all political parties here and throughout the UK see this case as presenting a fundamental threat to political and religious freedom."
Peter Lynas concluded, "The Evangelical Alliance strongly believe in equality, but it must be held in tension with rights and responsibilities and in the context of the much richer notion of justice. When equality becomes the sole lens through which a situation is viewed, distortions like this can occur. The Equality Commission is soon due to encompass the good relations remit in Northern Ireland. Will pursuing a case like this in the courts lead to community cohesion and better relationships? For now, we hope and pray the courts will protect the civil and religious freedoms we all value so much."