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Ashers Bakery should have clear conscience over cake row

THE recent case that the Equality Commission has felt necessary to take against Ashers Bakery compels me to write this letter.

The company in question acted on their deeply-held beliefs when refusing to print a cake with a slogan in support of same-sex marriage.

There was no discrimination involved and there was no refusal to sell products to anybody on the basis of their sexual orientation.

I believe there must be freedom of conscience in such situations. The real intolerance would be to pursue a society which forces Christians to abandon their conscience.

Many will question what the logical conclusion of this campaign by the Equality Commission will be. I contend that the drive to privatise faith and religion is not in the best interests of a diverse society.

Just as the Equality Commission deemed it necessary to take this case, I believe public opinion now needs to be tested in relation to a "freedom of conscience" clause currently being introduced as a Private Member's Bill by Paul Givan MLA. I wonder where Ashers Bakery's "freedom of conscience" has disappeared to?

I believe in civil and religious liberty, and that this case is a symptom of the statute books' current inflexibility to provide for people of faith - whether Christian, or other - to exercise their conscience in line with their religious beliefs.

I have witnessed various spurious, mischievous and frankly ill-informed arguments about the outcome that such a Bill would have. In any case, the public in Northern Ireland will be fully consulted on this matter.

I encourage them to be fully involved in the process.

CLLR PETER MARTIN (DUP)

Mayor of North Down

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