Ashers verdict a defeat for freedom of expression and freedom of conscience

24 October 2016

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has expressed disappointment at the outcome of the appeal by Ashers Bakery, describing it as a defeat for freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. He also said the ruling raises major challenges for the Equality Commission.

Gregory Campbell MP

DUP Spokesman on International Development and Cabinet Office

Gregory Campbell

The DUP MP said, “Freedom of expression and freedom of conscience are vital to any democracy and most people support attempts to defend these fundamental rights. Unfortunately, today those rights have been undermined.
People do not need to share the McArthur family’s Christian faith to support the stance they have taken on this issue. No one needs to share their Christian faith to realise the ruling is a defeat for freedom of expression. As a result of this ruling will other commercial firms be forced to supply produce with political or religious slogans attached with which they profoundly disagree?

The ruling does not advance tolerance, freedom or a more liberal society. Neither does this do anything to tackle discrimination, which cannot be justified and is rightly outlawed. It moves beyond discrimination, with implications that are not yet known.

It remains to be seen whether all of those who are celebrating today’s decision would be as content if the ruling is used to enforce a message with which they disagree. There are those who profoundly disagree with the McArthur family’s beliefs, but who have recognised the dangerous precedent that could be set.

This was a case pursued with some vigour by the Equality Commission yet, as the Lord Chief Justice noted, the other side of this case was ignored. The pursuit of this case by the Commission was not only one-sided but stands in contrast to their foot dragging in other cases such as the shameful McCreesh Park incident.”

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