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Challenge to 'gay cake' ruling thrown out by ECtHR judges

Freedom of Speech
6 January 2022

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have dismissed a challenge to a UK Supreme Court ruling in favour of Christian bakers who refused to bake a cake with the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage'.

Lawyers acting for Gareth Lee, who took Ashers Baking Company to court in 2014 for declining to provide the cake, claimed UK judges had failed to safeguard human rights. Today, the ECtHR ruled that their challenge is "inadmissible".

The decision was welcomed by The Christian Institute, which supported Ashers Baking Company owners the McArthur family in their legal battle. Simon Calvert, spokesman for the Institute, said:

“This is the right result. The UK Supreme Court engaged at length with the human rights arguments in this case and upheld the McArthurs’ rights to freedom of expression and religion.

"I’m surprised anyone would want to overturn a ruling that protects gay business owners from being forced to promote views they don’t share, just as much as it protects Christian business owners.

“The ruling in October 2018 by five of the country’s most distinguished and experienced judges was welcomed by lawyers, commentators and free speech experts from across the spectrum.

"They all knew of the implications for freedom of speech and religion, had the decision gone against Ashers. This is good news for free speech, good news for Christians, and good news for the McArthurs.”
Simon Calvert The Christian Institute

The 'gay cake' case started in 2014 when Ashers Baking Company declined an order by gay rights activist Gareth Lee asking for a £36.50 cake featuring the campaign slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

The cake was for a campaign event calling for same-sex marriage to be introduced in Northern Ireland. The bakery refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the firmly-held Christian beliefs of the owners, the McArthur family.

After four and half years the case reached the UK’s Supreme Court, which ruled that the "objection was not to Mr Lee because he, or anyone with whom he associated, held a political opinion supporting gay marriage. The objection was to being required to promote the message on the cake".

The ruling added: "The situation is not comparable to people being refused jobs, accommodation or business simply because of their religious faith. It is more akin to a Christian printing business being required to print leaflets promoting an atheist message.”

"The freedom not to be obliged to hold or to manifest beliefs that one does not hold is also protected by article 10 of the Convention. …The right to freedom of expression does not in terms include the right not to express an opinion but it has long been held that it does."

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