A top legal expert has joined the team defending Ashers Baking Company – ahead of its appeal next month.
Professor Christopher McCrudden of Queen’s University Belfast studied law at Yale and Oxford and specialises in human rights law.
He joins a team led by David Scoffield QC who will support Ashers at their hearing in Belfast beginning on 3 February.
The Christian-run bakery was taken to court because it declined to produce a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.
Taxpayer-funded quango the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland initiated the legal action, and in May Belfast County Court ruled that the company had acted unlawfully.
On 3 February the Court of Appeal in Belfast will hear Ashers’ legal arguments, in a case which is backed by The Christian Institute.
Speaking about Professor Christopher McCrudden, The Christian Institute’s spokesman Simon Calvert said: “We are delighted to have such a formidable legal expert join an already strong team.”
. . . the court’s approach breached the right of a person not to be compelled to express views to which they have a strong objection.Simon Calvert
Discussing the case, Mr Calvert said: “We’re confident that Ashers’ grounds of appeal are strong. There are a number of areas where the county court simply misapplied discrimination law.
“Ashers’ lawyers will also show how the court’s approach breached the right of a person not to be compelled to express views to which they have a strong objection.
“We believe that compelled speech is dangerous because it runs the risk of forcing people to act against their consciences.”
Mr Calvert added that the McArthur family has taken “great encouragement from the truly astonishing support they have received from ordinary men and women from Northern Ireland and across the world”.
He commented: “The case has struck a chord with so many people of all faiths and none including supporters of same-sex marriage who have been equally outraged by this action against Ashers.
“It’s vitally important that the higher courts consider this issue.”