Belfast Telegraph

McArthur tells court how strong faith underpins his firm

By Deborah McAleese

For a man unwillingly thrust into the spotlight, Daniel McArthur seemed completely at ease. As he took to the witness box he exchanged an assured glance with his wife Amy sitting in the corner of the courtroom.

She nodded briefly at him and then it began.

"You have been part of a public campaign on the issue of the cake," Robin Allen QC, counsel for gay rights activist Gareth Lee, said to Mr McArthur.

"I have been happy to contribute to these events. I feel it is important to bring it into the public domain. So people can understand what we are going through," Mr Arthur replied confidently.

On Thursday, Mr McArthur said he wished the case had never happened.

But dressed yesterday in a smart suit and with his designer stubble, the young businessman came across as polished, composed and not afraid to cross swords with the top English barrister.

"Why did you feel this order could not be fulfilled?" he was asked.

"As Christians, gay marriage is contradictory to the Bible. We felt, as Christians, we could not in conscience put it (a slogan supporting gay marriage) on a cake. We believe the business is being given to us by God and how we use it is on our shoulders," Mr McArthur told the court.

"Do you accept that businesses must be run according to the law?" the QC asked him.

"Yes," the Ashers manager responded.

The barrister then produced a leaflet advertising the cake services that Ashers provide. One of the images was of a cake with the image of a witch to celebrate Halloween.

"Nobody would know from the leaflet that Ashers was run by two directors and a manager who held particular religious beliefs," the barrister said.

He added: "You are a member of Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church.

"It does not approve of Halloween being celebrated and certainly does not approve of witches."

Mr McArthur replied: "I have never talked to anyone in the church about it.

"I have never thought about it in a religious context, about whether it was right or wrong.

"It's a celebration of All Saints Day, a Christian holiday."

"But witches are hardly consistent with Christian beliefs are they?" the lawyer asked.

"Yes, but at the same time, the thing to remember, we weren't involved in putting the leaflet together.

"It was put together by another manager," Mr McArthur said.

"It has been in your shop for some years. You can't really dissociate yourself with it," the QC stated.

He then asked Mr McArthur: "Did you discuss the position Ashers should take with any of the church elders?"

Mr McArthur replied: "Yes, I rang an elder in the church to ask what his thoughts would be."

He added: "We weren't doing it in defiance of the law. We don't know the ins and outs of the law.

"Our church faith is of the utmost importance to us.

"It is how we run our entire lives and bring our families up.

"Before God, it is not something we could do." Mrs McArthur in particular seemed reluctant to publicly share details of the churches different members of the family attend.

"Is this relevant?" she asked Mr Allen when he quizzed her.

It was Mrs McArthur who initially accepted Gareth Lee's order for the cake, with the logo Support Gay Marriage and an image of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. A few days later she contacted him to say the company could not fulfil the order because of their Christian beliefs.

"We seek to live at all times in accordance with the doctrines and teachings of the Bible," she said. "I have been a born-again Christian since seven. I love The Lord and I seek to please him in whatever way I live my life.

"The problem was with the message on the cake. As a Christian I do not support gay marriage."

When asked if she had ever intended to fulfil the order, despite taking payment from Mr Lee, she said: "In my heart I knew I would not be able to fulfil the order."

"Do you not think you should have immediately told Mr Lee?" she was asked.

"I didn't want to embarrass him or have a confrontation in the bakery," Mrs McArthur replied.

For Colin McArthur, it was not quite as an immediate decision.

"I wrestled with it in my heart. On that day I didn't make a clinical decision.

"I was examining my heart," he said.

Mr McArthur added: "We discussed how we could stand before God and bake a cake like this."

Both sides had probably hoped for a resolution yesterday to a case which has captivated Northern Ireland, but with such complex legal arguments, the case is now set to run into another week.

  • Follow our reporter @DeborahMcAleese for live updates from the case on Monday

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