Gay cake row decision worrying
Ashers Baking Company have indicated that they won't bow to renewed pressure from the Equality Commission, which has decided to take them to court for declining to make what has become known as the 'gay cake'.
The Christian-run bakery declined to make a cake supporting gay marriage because it was against the directors' religious beliefs.
The decision to take the family business to court is very worrying. Having taken further legal advice, the commission now claims Ashers are guilty of religious and political discrimination as well as the original claim on the grounds of sexual orientation.
This should concern everyone, not just Christians. It is a challenge to the very fabric of Northern Ireland society. This is an attempt to privatise religion and exclude it from the public square.
Ashers have made clear that they did not know the sexual orientation of the person ordering the cake.
Ashers were discriminating against an idea - not a person. The law allows the first, while rightly preventing the second.
The commission now appears to be arguing that views on gay marriage may be grounds for political discrimination.
This is strange, as the commission itself supports gay marriage, presumably making it a political organisation and no longer neutral on this issue.
Finally, it is reported that the commission is accusing Ashers of religious discrimination, as their decision was motivated by their faith.
There does not appear to be any suggestion they knew the religion of the person ordering the cake.
Instead, the family who run the firm are being accused of discrimination, because their stance was motivated by their faith. But surely we are all motivated by our beliefs?
We at the Evangelical Alliance strongly believe in equality, but it must be held in tension with rights and responsibilities.
When equality becomes the sole lens through which a situation is viewed, distortions like the Ashers case can occur.
We hope and pray that the courts will protect the civil and religious freedoms we all value so much.
Peter Lynas is director of the Evangelical Alliance NI