For Christian bakery owners Amy and Daniel McArthur, one chapter of their fight for religious freedom has come to a close. The owners of the Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland received a unanimous ruling from the UK’s highest court that they were entitled to decline baking a cake that spoke a message of support for same-sex marriage.
In 2014, Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist, approached the Belfast branch of the bakery with a request for a cake that would include a slogan that read “Support gay marriage” along with the Sesame Street characters Ernie and Bert. While the bakery had initially taken the request, it later canceled the order and refunded Lee’s money. Immediately, the Northern Irish Equality Commission stepped in, inciting that Lee had been discriminated against based on his sexuality. The bakery stated it didn’t want to make a cake that displayed a message that was against their Christian beliefs. Originally, a Belfast court had ruled favorably for Lee, but the case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, where all five justices ruled in favor of the McArthurs. One of the judges, Brenda Hale, wrote in her decision: “In a nutshell, the objection was to the message and not to any particular person or persons.” The general manager of Ashers, Daniel McArthur, said “I want to start by thanking God … he has been with us during the challenges of the last four years."
This case comes only a few months after Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood Colorado, won his U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. As with Jack Phillips, the McArthurs have no issue with serving Mr. Lee, as they have said, “We didn’t say no because of the customer; we’d served him before, we’d serve him again. It was because of the message. But some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree.” It isn’t an objection to Mr. Lee’s character or sexual orientation, but rather the context of the message of his order. The McArthurs are implementing their business by living out the values they conscientiously believe in. They are free to run their business as a Christian business, and there should be no one who can tell them to work differently.
The Bible says in James 1:23-25 that “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” The McArthurs are laboring to use their liberty and religious rights to serve Christ in all capacities of their lives, not just in private. Let us pray that they will continue to be strong in obedience to God in what He is calling them to do, as it is highly probable that the McArthurs have not heard the last of this case.
We’re all called as Christians to live in the world, but not to live like it. We all have a commitment to God to live as He is calling us to live. In a time where many schools and businesses are curtailing the freedom to live out one’s beliefs, this calling will become more of a challenge. But when we stay committed to following Jesus Christ and trust that He is the Savior, we see the fulfillment it brings to our lives and further confirms the truth of God’s laws. President Ronald Reagan said it best: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” May we fight for these freedoms in each of our unique callings for our children and future generations.
James Selvey is an intern at FRC Action.