The case of Ashers Bakery demonstrates the need for a “conscience clause” which would protect Christians and others who have deeply held beliefs, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds said yesterday.
The North Belfast MP said: “The case re-opens the debate about how exactly religious belief is respected within the United Kingdom and the need for someone’s conscience to be protected whilst ensuring that discrimination does not occur.
“We should reflect on statements in recent months from Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, that the UK is “less respectful” towards people with religious views than other countries, despite its long Christian traditions.
“More recently she also said that a ‘conscience clause’ should be considered to protect those, such as Christians, who have deeply and genuinely held beliefs on certain issues.”
The DUP man added: “There is nothing modern or progressive about a country that cannot ensure both equality and a tolerance for difference of opinion. It must also be possible to outline such differences of opinion without being lazily tagged as homophobic.”
TUV Bannside councillor Timothy Gaston said he found it “particularly troubling” that a publically-funded quango, the Equality Commission, had got involved.
He added: “Society is well used to hearing campaigners for same-sex marriage claim that they are discriminated against and being denied equal rights.
“The reality is that there are none so intolerant as those who shout loudest about toleration.
“The person who claims to have been discriminated against received a full refund. He had opportunity to bring his business elsewhere. Yet they chose to persecute a Christian company because they refused to produce a product which conflicted with their beliefs.”
Mr Gaston said Ashers “have, in the past, declined orders which contained pornographic images and offensive language”.
He added: “It seems there is tolerance for all – except those with Christian beliefs.”