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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Ashers Bakery in Supreme Court Today #supportashers #freespeech

I have been monitoring the Ashers bakery case in the UK since the story first made headlines. For those that don’t keep up to date; Ashers is a bakery, in Northern Ireland, owned by the McArthur family, who are Christians. They were asked  by a gay activist to bake a cake for a gay wedding containing a slogan indicating support for gay marriage. They declined on the basis that the message conflicted with their Christian beliefs about gay marriage. They were taken to court, not by the gay activist, but by the tax payer funded Equality Commission primarily for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The bakery is being supported by the Christian Institute.

I found it especially interesting that the people jumping to defend Ashers were in most cases non-Christians who were concerned about the potential impact for freedom of expression. Maybe this is not surprising as many Christians don’t seem to be able to make up their minds where they stand on this issue with comments like, “I don’t really know what to think about this” and other such bland statements appearing on social media platforms. But the absence of comment from many Christians is just as concerning. Maybe they feel that their faith is a private matter, or maybe they just resolve to do whatever it takes not to find themselves in a similar situation. I don’t really know the reason for the eerie silence.

I think what many are forgetting is that Ashers didn’t in any way choose to make global headlines or to be thrust suddenly into the public eye by their stance and I’m sure did not intend to be controversial, or to upset anybody. They were simply trying to live their Christian lives in peace as a Godly witness in an increasingly secular country. They have been forced to defend their Christian faith in a tax-payer funded court case which has really been a disgrace from the outset. I followed the case in disbelief at first thinking that at some stage the craziness would come to an end. It eventually concluded with Ashers being found GUILTY.  After my initial shock and disbelief, I grew increasingly confident that the judgement MUST be reversed on appeal as the negative consequences for so many areas of public life would be staggering otherwise, and not just for Christians.

I am writing to highlight the many incredibly profound statements that have been made by the McArthur family throughout their trial and to encourage continued support and prayer for them, That they have been able to maintain their Christian witness and dignity at “such a time as this” is a remarkable testimony to non-believers and I hope will convict those Christians who feel that faith is a private matter that needs to be kept hidden. 

Statements like: “We feel that the Word of God is of much more importance than the words of the Equality Commission,” have a profound ring of truth to them. On hearing this, I was ashamed to recall the times as a Christian where I had been afraid to take a stand because of a secular authority, or person, and their potential reaction. But really, if God is God, and the Bible is God’s Word then why aren’t we all taking a leaf out of the McArthur's book and standing up for what we believe. Is it really okay that a Christian should be forced to violate their sincerely held Christian beliefs by doing some action that they know will offend a Holy God? Who are we serving and who is our Master?

The McArthur's are providing a great example to all of us as Christians, as even when they were no doubt devastated by the outcome of the court case they still released statements firmly reiterating their faith in God and His plans for their future.  Even that they were “happy” to be part of His plan!

“It doesn’t change how we feel about God and it doesn’t change anything about why we took our stand, we don’t regret that for one minute. And we believe God has a plan for the future and whatever that will be we are happy to be in His plans.”

Ashers was also contacted and encouraged by a Christian bakery in the USA in similar circumstances and facing a hefty legal bill. They now join the minority of Christians who have stood against secularism in the UK and abroad including:


1.       The B and B owners who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double bed.
2.       The Doctor who was sacked after 30 years of practice for offering to pray for a patient.
3.       The Judge who was investigated for refusing to place a child for adoption with a gay couple.
4.       The Registrar who refused to marry same sex couples.
5.       The Nurse who was investigated for wearing a cross to work.
6.       The Taxi driver who was investigated for a Christian symbol in his taxi.
7.       The lady who was investigated for offering to pray for a Muslim colleague.
8.       The street preachers that have been arrested for quoting Bible verses and thereby “offending” people.
9.       The parents who complained that their 5 year old had been told he wasn’t allowed to read his Bible in his free time whilst at school.
10.   The students and hotel visitors who stood against their universities and hotels banning Bibles from the rooms.

There are no doubt many more that haven’t made the national news and others who have quietly accepted their predicament and resigned without a fuss knowing that God will bless them for their failure to compromise.

I think we need to remember that this is not about politics or political activism. I would agree that Christians should avoid getting too bogged down in politics as a life focus. These people are defending Christian liberties. If they don’t then ultimately Christian freedoms will be eroded to the point that there will be no legal evangelism. Christians need to take a stand on this issue and remember the words of Jesus;

”If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8 vs 38 (NIV)

(NB I am grateful to the Christian Institute for a lot of the facts. Please visit their website to keep up to date The Christian Institute)