Beggs defends Ashers bakery and civil and religious freedom

Following the decision of the Equality commission to press their case of alleged unlawful discrimination against Ashers Bakery Roy Beggs MLA, has criticized the Equality Commission for their decision to take legal action against the Newtownabbey based, Ashers Bakery in an attempt to force individuals to act against their conscience.chamber

Roy Beggs said, “this case has much wider consequences than the Gay Marriage cake including Bert and Ernie “Supporting Gay Marriage”.  Potentially it could have adverse implications for freedom of expression effecting wider society and the ability of those of faith to operate their business.   As such we all should have concerns of the actions of the Equality Commission”.

The Ulster Unionist MLA went on to comment about this case effecting the business which operates in East Antrim, “No one should be refused the right to purchase an item on display in a retail property, such as a cake.  But the sale of a plain cake was not refused in this case and it would clearly be wrong to do so.  All citizens must be treated with respect and treated equally irrespective of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation or political opinion.

However, I believe this case is more complicated as it is about requiring a creative person to design and make a bespoke item which they might disapprove of.  It could have implications for artists, writers, sign makers, film makers. This is an important issue for everyone in terms of civil liberty, not just cake makers or the gay community.

Should a Christian be required to write a message on a sales item that they disapprove of?    What if this was a gay person?  Should they be required to write a message saying marriage is for one man and one women and all gays will go to hell?   Should a Republican cake shop in the Falls be forced to produce a cake celebrating the Shankill butchers?  Or should a Shankill Road cake shop be forced to make a cake celebrating the release of the Frizzell’s chip shop bomber?   Should a Jew be required to write a message supporting extreme right wing Nazis views such as the Holocaust never occurred?   Should a Muslim be required to write a message in support of Israel’s bombing of Gaza?   I think not.”

In conclusion Roy Beggs MLA said, “This matter will now be put before the courts. It is a case of a small family bakery having to defend itself against the publicly funded equality commission: a case of David against Goliath.  This is not good use of our limited funding.

Will individuals be allowed to live and express their own views or will the state attempt to coerce them into acting against their personal beliefs?  I hope for all our benefit, our hard won civil and religious freedom will be protected by the outcome.”

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