The global religious-right network behind the gay marriage cake battle – Byline Times

The long-running case included interventions by an international network of ‘religious freedom’ giants in the United States and Europe – showing the power of the global anti-rights movement

A seven-year legal battle between LGBTIQ rights activist Gareth Lee and a Belfast bakery over his refusal to bake a cake with the message ‘support same-sex marriage’ ended this week, after the European Court of Justice human rights law (ECHR) ruled that Lee’s assertion was inadmissible.

The case has become a battle over freedom of expression and religion, with a debate raging over whether the bakery has the right to refuse to bake a cake supporting same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

It has also drawn the attention of international religious rights organizations that have campaigned against LGBTIQ rights and marriage equality, many of whom are from the United States; as well as religious law organizations in Poland, where human rights are increasingly threatened.

This is how a small Belfast bakery became the hotspot for a global campaign coordinated by international organizations working to roll back LGBTIQ rights.


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Gareth Lee had asked Ashers Bakery, run by Evangelical Christians McArthurs, to bake a cake with the slogan for equal marriage and a photo of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. He refused.

A series of court cases followed, leading to a Court of Appeal hearing which ruled that the bakery had discriminated against Lee. The McArthurs appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the previous ruling.

Lee then took his case to the ECHR. The court ruled that he would not be able to hear the case because Lee had not expressly invoked his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights at any time during the proceedings in the UK. United and had relied solely on domestic law.

A number of third party interveners were involved in the case, representing global religious right organizations, including two from the United States.

These were the European branches of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF International) and the American Center for Law and Justice (operating in Europe as the European Center for Law and Justice or ECLJ). The latter, which was set up by the curator firebrand Pat robertson, has as chief lawyer former Donald Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow. She obtained leave to intervene in the case but chose not to submit a third party intervention.

The ADF was established in Arizona in 1993 with the goal of “defending your religious freedom”. He does so through a global network of lawyers and strategic litigators, challenging existing laws and assisting in cases relating to freedom of expression. The organization was designated as “hate groupBy the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBTIQ campaign – a designation the organization disputes.

Between 2009 and 2018, ADF spent $ 1.57 billion in Europe and in 2012 launched ADF International with offices in Vienna, Strasbourg, Brussels, Geneva and London.

The UK branch registered a Income over £ 500,000 in 2020, with “financial support in the form of unrestricted donations from Alliance Defending Freedom, a US-linked charity that operates on the same principles as ADF International (UK ) ”. These donations totaled £ 324,000. Because it is not limited, the money can be spent on any campaign run by the organization in the UK.

ADF International has exerted an increasing influence on mainstream politics in the UK. His investigation of free speech on campuses was cited in a Department of Education white paper released last year. The Conservative MP and co-chair of the All-party pro-life parliamentary group Fiona bruce spoke at his ‘leadership academy’ in Vienna in 2019.

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ADF International’s submission in the Ashers Bakery case argued that it had the right “not to express an opinion or act contrary to its religious beliefs”.

It was not the first time that ADF has advocated for bakers refusing to bake a gay wedding cake. In 2012, she supported Jack Phillips in Colorado, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. ADF took the cake case to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that Phillips should not be forced to bake a cake to celebrate an event that conflicts with his religious beliefs.

The parallels between the Colorado and Belfast cases show how America’s religious freedom giants are importing effective strategies across the Atlantic into LGBTIQ rights cases.

In 2017, ADF International Director Paul Coleman wrote in Sharp magazine that the Ashers and Philips cases represented a “to branch off on the road to freedom”. Sharp the magazine’s American fundraising arm received donations of the Charles Koch Foundation, which used to fund causes for religious freedom.

From Belfast to Warsaw

The Christian Institute, a “allyFrom ADF International. The Institute operates a legal defense fund to “protect Christian religious freedom and restrict those who illegally harass and discriminate Christian believers.”

In a statement published on its website, the spokesperson for the Institute, Simon Calvert, hailed the decision of the ECHR as “the good result”.

“The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has given considerable consideration to the human rights arguments in this case and upheld the McArthurs’ rights to freedom of expression and religion,” he said. “It was disappointing to see another attempt to undermine those rights, so it’s a relief that the attempt failed. I’m surprised anyone wants to overturn a ruling that protects gay business owners from being forced to promote views they don’t share, just as much as it protects Christian business owners.

ADF International has supported the Christian Institute on several occasions, most notably in a case involving civil registrar Lilian Ladele in London who asked to be exempted from registering same-sex civil partnerships. A court ruled in Ladele’s favor after representation by Christian Institute, but the decision was overturned on appeal. The case was brought before the ECHR, where ADF International obtained authorization to intervene.

Gareth Lee lost his lawsuit against Ashers Bakery for a matched wedding cake. Photo: PA Images / Alamy

Alongside ADF International and the Christian Institute of the ECHR, the Polish government intervened in the case to argue that “forcing a person to express a belief that he or she does not have amounts to a restriction of rights. »According to article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Poland’s attitude towards LGBTIQ people has been in the spotlight in recent years, with President Andrezj Duda presenting himself on a socially conservative platform in the 2020 elections. 100 cities in the country have declared themselves LGBT-free zones, while same-sex couples are banned adopt children. The influential Archbishop of Krakow, Marek Jedraszewski, condemned “LGBT ideology” as a “rainbow plague, worse than Bolshevism”.

Ordo Iuris also represented Poland, a Catholic think tank that in 2016 drafted a bill to completely ban abortion in the country and supported the 2021 decision to further restrict abortion in Poland so that ‘it is only available in cases of rape and incest or threats to the mother’s life. Although she was authorized to intervene, she did not submit her intervention.

Ordo Iuris is linked to ADF through Agenda Europe – an obscure network active during the 2010s with plans to “restore natural order” by rolling back abortion and LGBTIQ rights. Ordo Iuris hosted the Agenda Europe 2015 summit in 2015. During the Agenda Europe 2014 summit, Paul Coleman of ADF International co-led a Training session on how NGOs can present their agenda to “international and supranational institutions” such as the European Court of Human Rights.


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