Asher’s Bakery Appeal
Press Release by Reformed Presbyterian Church Public Morals Committee
28 October 2016
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland is saddened and disappointed that the Court of Appeal has rejected the appeal by legal counsel representing Asher’s Bakery (run by the MacArthur family). There is cause for concern at the wider implications of the decision on the right of freedom to exercise Christian conscience in business, the workplace and even at home.
The facts of this case are now well known in the province and further afield. Asher’s Bakery did not have a policy of refusing to provide goods and services to certain sections of the public on the basis of their sexual orientation, religious belief and political opinion. The refusal was to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan, which conflicted with their Christian beliefs.
The Equality Commission (a publically funded non-departmental public body established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998) funded the legal action against the Asher’s Bakery. The powers and duties of the Equality Commission come from laws enacted over recent decades to provide protection against discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, race, religion and political opinion, sex and sexual orientation. In this case, the courts have, in effect, decided that the Bible believing Christian has been the perpetrator of the discriminating act. Sadly, there have been many such legal actions against Christians on similar issues regarding exercise of conscience in business, the workplace and indeed the home and the outcome of legal process has not favoured the Christian. We wonder how often the Equality Commission protect the Christian and their right to live and work according to religious beliefs and a God given conscience. However, this is a time for Christians to take courage if you are down-hearted in this regard and maybe anxious for your own situation: God is in control and there is nothing outside of His power and we are not to be surprised when we are mocked and maybe persecuted for our beliefs. God will guard, guide, comfort and sustain us when we are under attack for His cause.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland believes that Christians have a duty to love God and their fellow man in accordance with His word contained in the Bible. Sadly, many of the Christian values that were the backbone of our society have been eroded and the Gospel message is not only unpopular but regarded as offensive. However, when under attack for believing God’s law and trying to live by it (albeit imperfectly) we often find the strength of our faith, which is not in mere men, but faith in an almighty, loving, just, gracious and merciful God who holds us as the apple of His eye.
On this occasion the right to freedom of exercise of Christian conscience in business has not been upheld. The evidence is that there will be other cases like this against Christians. The Christian community should be prepared to persevere in defending the Christian faith against these attacks and supporting those who find themselves at the centre of these controversies when they are for the cause of Christ. In any event, at a personal cost, in more than one way, the MacArthur family have been hurtled into the public eye and been the subject of scrutiny and public debate. We pray with thanks for the humility shown by the MacArthur family, which has been a powerful example and witness. We are thankful for organisations such as the Christian Institute who have provided much needed support to the Asher’s Bakery in their legal defence. It is encouraging to see the significant number of Christians attending meetings (locally and in the mainland UK) organised by the Christian Institute to raise awareness and show support to the MacArthur family and others like them. We remain prayerful for all God’s people facing public threat and opposition on account of their exercise of religious beliefs. Above all, we pray for enlightenment of hearts and minds to the need of salvation in Christ alone.