Evangelical Peter Lynas has said that the “gay cake” case was “about the message and not the people” after Christian owners of a bakery won their Supreme Court appeal.
Mr Lynas, Director of Northern Ireland Evangelical Alliance told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “This is about the message and not the people.
“The court has been very clear that they can’t, and they didn’t, not serve Mr Lee because he was gay.
“He had bought things from them before and had he asked for a cake – no problem.
“They would have served him a cake but they were asked to put a slogan on.
“To use their skills, their company, their machinery, techniques and staff to put a message that would support a particular campaign.
“In a free and fair society, why should you have to support and endorse a message that is at odds with your beliefs.”
'Support Gay Marriage'
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company. Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Christian owners of a bakery at the centre of the so-called "gay cake" case expressed their "delight and relief" after winning a Supreme Court appeal over a claim that they had discriminated against a customer.
Five justices at the UK's highest court allowed a challenge by the McArthur family, who run Ashers bakery in Belfast, in a unanimous ruling in London.
The legal action was originally brought by gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who claimed he had been discriminated against when the firm refused to make him a cake iced with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage".
Mr Lee initially won his case in the county court and then at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, but the McArthurs then challenged those rulings at a Supreme Court hearing in Belfast in May.
John O’Doherty, from the Rainbow Project, was also speaking to Julia Hartley-Brewer.
He said: “We are shocked with yesterday’s judgement and it will take us some time to understand the full ramifications of what that judgement is.
“The decision taken by the Supreme Court is different to the position taken by the more junior court, which dealt with this as discrimination.
“We have to understand why that difference in opinion exists.”
He added: “There was a point made by the junior court that there was a reasonable understanding that the person was going to be a gay person when that was the product that they were asking for.”
'All I wanted was to order a cake'
Gareth Lee outside the Supreme Court in London. Image: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Speaking outside court after the ruling on Wednesday, the bakery's general manager, Daniel McArthur, who attended court with his wife Amy, said: "We're delighted and relieved at today's ruling.
"We always knew we hadn't done anything wrong in turning down this order.
"We're particularly pleased the Supreme Court emphatically accepted what we've said all along - we did not turn down this order because of the person who made it, but because of the message itself.
"I know a lot of people will be glad to hear this ruling today, because this ruling protects freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for everyone."
Controversy first flared when Mr Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group QueerSpace, ordered a £36.50 cake in 2014 featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.
His order was accepted and he paid in full but, two days later, the company called to say it could not proceed due to the message requested.
Mr Lee, who was supported by Northern Ireland's Equality Commission, was also present for the latest ruling in the case, which has attracted enormous attention.
Speaking to the media after the ruling was announced, he said: "To me, this was never about a campaign or a statement.
"All I wanted was to order a cake in a shop that sold cakes to order.
"I paid my money, my money was taken and then a few days later it was refused. That made me feel like a second-class citizen.
"I'm concerned not just for the implications for myself and other gay people, but for every single one of us."
'Their objection was to the message on the cake'
In a brief statement announcing the court's decision, its president, Lady Hale, said the McArthur family hold the religious belief that "the only form of marriage consistent with the Bible and acceptable to God is between a man and a woman".
She said: "As to Mr Lee's claim based on sexual discrimination, the bakers did not refuse to fulfil his order because of his sexual orientation.
"They would have refused to make such a cake for any customer, irrespective of their sexual orientation.
"Their objection was to the message on the cake, not to the personal characteristics of Mr Lee or of anyone else with whom he was associated.
"The message on the cake would not just be for the benefit of gay people - but also for their families and friends and anyone who recognises the social benefits which the commitment involved in gay marriage can bring.
"Accordingly, this court holds that there was no discrimination on the ground of the sexual orientation of Mr Lee or anyone else with whom he was associated."
The court also found that Mr Lee had no claim against Ashers on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion, holding that no-one should be "forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe".