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Churches hail decision as 'an affirmation of religious freedom'

Churches in Northern Ireland have welcomed the Supreme Court decision on the Ashers Bakery case as an "affirmation of religious freedom and expression", but added that it is "not a licence to discriminate".

A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland claimed the ruling had "made clear that business owners can in conscience refuse to promote messages that run contrary to their personal beliefs".

They stated: "We believe that the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court is an important milestone in helping to strike a proper and much-needed balance in law between the legitimate expression of conscience in all aspects of society and protection from unjust discrimination.

"As individuals created in the image of God, we are called to love our neighbour so it goes without saying that today's ruling is not a licence to discriminate.

"On the contrary, in the interests of the common good and human dignity, the law must protect people from discrimination, while properly valuing the role of conscience in the public square.

Their statement added that the Supreme Court has "allowed for a more reasonable approach to be taken, while protecting and reaffirming the inherent value of an individual's freedom of conscience and ability to express - or just as importantly refuse to express - an opinion."

The chairman of the Church of Ireland's Church and Society Commission, Bishop Kenneth Kearon, said the Supreme Court judgment "affirms the rights of the business and does not significantly impact on the freedom of choice for the customer".

The Methodist Church said the decision gave "protection" against people being "forced to provide a service that conflicts with their own religious or moral convictions".

Methodist president Rev Billy Davison added: "When competing rights and freedoms conflict, it is hard to satisfy all sides, but we welcome the clarity that this judgment brings."

Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, Rev Gordon Dane, commended the McArthur family's "diligence".

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Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company. Click through the gallery to read the full judgement. [File photo]

Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company. Click through the gallery to read the full judgement. [File photo]

PA

Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company. Click through the gallery to read the full judgement. [File photo]

No response was received from the Catholic Church.

Belfast Telegraph