The prosecution of a small Christian bakery for allegedly refusing service to a customer is malicious persecution and will affect freedom of conscience, Rev. Robert Johnston has said.
In an open letter, the convenor of the public morals committee of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church has called on Christians to pray for Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland.
The bakery is facing a trial on 26 March, brought by the NI Equality Commission, after it refused to promote same-sex marriage when a customer asked them to decorate a pro-gay marriage cake.
The letter called the NI Equality Commission’s action a ‘malicious prosecution’. ‘Ashers did not refuse to provide a service to a customer, but they were within their rights to refuse to promote same-sex marriage, which is not legal in Northern Ireland’.
He said that the bakery was ‘merely acting according to conscience, which was well informed by the Word of God. Such a biblically informed conscience is not to be prosecuted, but rather it is to be valued’.
The Christian Institute (CI) is supporting Daniel McArthur, manager of Ashers, whose contention is that fulfilling the order would have involved promoting a cause which goes against their conscientious view that marriage is between a man and a woman.
According to the CI, the McArthurs have received widespread support, including from a gay activist, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, MPs and MLAs.
Last year, DUP MLA Paul Givan launched a consultation on introducing a ‘conscience clause’ in Northern Ireland in light of the Ashers case. He wants to table a Private Members’ Bill to amend equality legislation.