The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a case brought by lawyers for Gareth Lee, a gay-rights advocate in the United Kingdom who had triggered a years-long fight with a bakery when its Christian owners declined to support his agenda.
The Christian Institute reported that the European court dismissed the case because he had not raised those issues of international rights while the case was in the courts of the U.K.
The Institute, which supported the bakery, Ashers, owned by the McArthur family, explained the case erupted in 2014 when Lee ordered a cake promoting homosexuality. The bakery’s Christian owners replied that they could not promote a message with which they disagreed, and refunded his money.
He then complained to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, which started an action against the bakery.
After years of depositions, arguments and hearings, the U.K. Supreme Court in 2018 “found in Ashers favor, recognizing the family’s objection was ‘to the message, not to the man.’”
The case was pushed up to the ECHR after that ruling.
But in its decision, the court ruled the application to be heard was “inadmissible” and that Lee was asking the court to “usurp the role of the domestic courts.”
The Equality Commission had dropped out of the case by then, and Lee’s appeal was managed by “same-sex marriage campaigner activist lawyer Ciaran Moynagh of Belfast-based firm Phoenix Law,” the Institute reported.
Moynagh claimed the U.K. decision “created legal uncertainty.”
Simon Calvert, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, said, “The U.K. Supreme Court engaged at length with the human rights arguments in this case and upheld the McArthurs’ rights to freedom of expression and religion. It was disappointing to see another attempt to undermine those rights, so it is a relief that the attempt has failed.”
He continued, “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.”
In fact, had the opposite conclusion been reached, a homosexual baker could have been forced to create products quoting the Old Testament’s condemnations of homosexuality.
Or a Jewish baker could have been forced to promote a Nazi theme. Or a Muslim baker could have been forced the promote a pork-themed product.
Calvert said, “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 could have included a Muslim printer being forced to print cartoons of Mohammed, or a lesbian-owned bakery being forced to make a cake describing gay marriage as an ‘abomination’.”
Lee’s lawyers had claimed “his rights were interfered with by a public authority – the Supreme Court – by its decision to dismiss his claim for breach of statutory duty to provide services, and that the interference was not proportionate.”
WND reported when the appeal was launched, the Institute explained, “The ruling last fall from the U.K. Supreme Court said, ‘Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe.’”
Lower courts in the U.K. had ruled against Ashers, but the attorney general for Northern Ireland, John Larkin, argued in court on behalf of the bakery.
Larkin asserted Ashers’ owners have the right to reject a request to put a pro-homosexual message on a cake under the nation’s freedom of speech laws as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.
“No one should be forced to be the mouthpiece for someone else’s views when they are opposed to their own – whether in print or in icing sugar,” he said at the time.
“Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion,” he wrote.
“It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage and gay blood donors remain banned. The equality laws are intended to protect people against discrimination. A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith and sexuality.
“However, the court erred by ruling that Lee was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and political opinions. … His cake request was refused not because he was gay, but because of the message he asked for. There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order,” he wrote.
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