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Letters: 'Gay cake' row and right to live free from coercion

I've followed with interest the 'gay cake' scandal. Like many others, I was shocked and personally offended that Ashers Bakery refused to complete an order on the basis that it contributed to a pro-gay message at odds with the company ethos.

However, my concern has transcended this issue onto a matter of greater significance: freedom of conscience and freedom to live free from coercion.

While LGBT advocates and some sections of the media have become preoccupied with LGBT group rights, they've neglected to consider natural rights - the rights of each individual to their life, liberty and fruit of their production.

It's worth remembering that Ashers Bakery is a private enterprise. As such, it isn't morally bound by the same constraints you would expect from publicly funded institutions.They define themselves and that's reflected in their values.

Their property was financed privately through their own endeavours. Their goods were made with ingredients paid for from their own purse.

What 'right' do we have to dough that doesn't belong to us? To what extent (whatever the rationale of the business) can we compel business-owners to act against their personal moral reasoning with their own property?

It is possible to actively work against bigotry, while at the same time respecting the property rights of business-owners.

Litigation promotes sympathy for intolerance in this case. We all have the power to effect change as informed consumers.

EVAN MAXWELL

Queen's University Libertarian Society

Our law on free speech has got to be reformed

We are writing as members of the advisory council of the Northern Ireland Libel Reform Campaign — a coalition of writers, academics, journalists, scientists, lawyers and bloggers concerned about the impact of Northern Ireland’s archaic libel laws on free expression.

The people of Northern Ireland do not enjoy the same right to free expression as people in England and Wales due to the fact that the law remains unreformed.

The Minister of Finance and Personnel, Simon Hamilton, cheered supporters of reform by requesting the Northern Ireland Law Commission to carry out an investigation into Northern Ireland’s libel law, including public consultation, and to issue a report with its recommendations.

We understand that the commission has ready a draft of a consultation paper, but this has not been published. The reason for delay is unclear.

With the possible abolition of the commission at the end of March next year there is the real possibility that this avenue for reform (and the taxpayers’ money spent on it to date) will be squandered.

We urge Simon Hamilton and David Ford, the Minister for Justice (which has departmental responsibility for the Northern Ireland Law Commission), to work together to ensure that the commission may continue its work in this project and in particular to enable the commission to publish its consultation paper so that the people of Northern Ireland can let their views be known.

It should be possible for the commission to complete its work on the project after public consultation and publish a full report before it is wound down.

We cannot let free speech be eroded. The ministers must act.

GLENN PATTERSON, BERNARD FITZPATRICK, BRIAN GARRETT and EIGHT OTHERS

(Full list of signatories at www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/letters)

Charities say a big thank-you

THE MISSION TO SEAFARERS BELFAST: Newtownards (Sept 26 and 27) £1279.10.

D SALTERS

MARIE CURIE CANCER CARE: Ballymena (Aug 23) £741.36.

H MILLER

An exit from EU would boost our own economy

As a Ukip member, a one-time member of Nipsa and a former scientific civil servant, I found Bumper Graham’s interview (DebateNI, November 10) interesting.

I agree with what he says about the economic crisis being “down to the incompetence of successive Northern Ireland Executives” and his assertion that “There is plenty of money in the UK”.

However, his faith in George Osborne turning the economy around is sadly misplaced. Government debt and the cost of living continue to rise.

There could be large sums of money available throughout the UK. Based purely on relative populations, the saving in net contributions on leaving the European Union could benefit Northern Ireland’s economy to the tune of £23,000 per hour.

A further injection of £52,000 per hour could be achieved by the repeal of the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Electing Ukip MPs in all parts of the UK would be the first step towards achieving this improvement in our national fortune.

ALAN LOVE

Lisburn, Co Antrim

MEP’s lopsided take on history

Jim Nicholson MEP (Write Back, November 11) says Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day is about “honouring the memory of those who stood against the tyranny of oppressive forces, whether in the guise of Nazism in the Second World War, or the terrorism that was rampant in this province”.

I take it that Mr Nicholson includes the rampant terrorism of sectarianism, bigotry and gerrymandering?

TOM COOPER

Dublin

Unionist double standards clear

On Tuesday I saw on TV a child dressed in full camouflage battledress, glorifying war. It also transpires that he is part of a unit that encourages children to join the armed forces.

However, there was not a word of condemnation from the unionist community, as this child was part of the British armed forces participating in the poppy day celebrations. This is in contrast to the outrage that unionist politicians come out with every time a child in the republican community takes part in a remembrance ceremony for republican dead.

DALE MOORE

Derry

Belfast Telegraph

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