Updated Monday morning
Here are two articles from religious sources that express criticism of the judgment previously reported here.
The Tablet has an editorial headlined Not equal before the law.
…Compelling people to act against their conscience, or forcing them out of business unless they are prepared to do so, can never be regarded as an unqualified victory for human rights. When rights clash, the appropriate way to resolve the issue is before an objective tribunal, which will weigh up the pros and cons on either side. That means there ought to be occasions where the right to religious freedom prevails, and the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation has to give way. But the latest case confirms, and as County Court Judge Andrew Rutherford said in his judgment, the balancing of one right against another is not what the law requires. In effect, gay rights trump religious convictions every time. There is something wrong with such a law. Judges should have discretion to probe further. Did the gay couple in this case, for instance, have a convenient alternative? Were the religious convictions merely a mask for homophobic prejudice? Above all, the court should be obliged to give due weight to the undesirability of overriding deeply held religious convictions, which is at least as wrong as offending the feelings of gay people. Religious believers have human rights too.
…But quite apart from the merits of the case, judges should be warned off any future reliance on the ill-considered opinions about law and religion ventured last year by Lord Justice Laws. Laws rightly asserted that no law can justify itself purely on the basis of the authority of any religion or belief system: “The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other.”
A sound basis for this view is Locke’s terse principle, in his Letter on Toleration, that “neither the right nor the art of ruling does necessarily carry with it the certain knowledge of other things; and least of all the true religion”.
But Laws seemed to ground the principle instead on two problematic and potentially discriminatory claims…
Update Monday morning
Here are two further articles, from a legal perspective, about the case:
In yesterday’s Observer Afua Hirsch the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Guardian wrote Gay couple’s hotel battle is latest case of religion clashing with human rights
She mentions the trend of “Religitigation” and she concludes with this:
the Bulls’ case confirms that, in the meantime, Christians will have to accept that civil partnerships are intended to be its equivalent as far as the law is concerned. But the interesting issue in this case lurks in the judge’s commentary. “It is no longer the case that our laws must, or should, automatically reflect the Judaeo-Christian position,” said Rutherford, that is in regarding marriage as the only form of legally recognised binding relationship.
It is this issue that concerns religious groups – the ability of the law to move on from its religious roots to a more equitable formula of guaranteeing fundamental rights, including the right against discrimination. Of course where those rights come into conflict, a more nuanced exercise of balancing takes place – one that the judiciary has so far approached with the utmost seriousness. Rutherford confessed he found the Bulls’ case “very difficult”, and Lord Phillips – president of the supreme court and the UK’s most senior judge – said earlier this year that the Jewish school decision had been the hardest of his judicial life.
That has been of little consolation to religitigants, however. What they seem to want is a trump card that puts them above the subtle considerations of fairness. And that, the courts have repeatedly said, is not going to happen.
At the UK Human Rights Blog Catriona Murdoch wrote A Cornish hotel and the conflict between discrimination law and religious freedom.
The judgment itself is now available as a web page here.
And, as Catriona reminds us, the Northern Ireland version of these regulations was the subject of a high court challenge, see An Application for Judicial Review by the Christian Institute and others  NIQB 66). We reported the outcome at the time: Northern Ireland: judicial review of SoRs. Among other things the judge said at that time:
“The applicants contend that the regulations treat evangelical Christians less favourably than other persons to the extent that they are subject to civil liability for manifesting the orthodox religious belief in relation to homosexuality. I am satisfied that the Regulations do not treat evangelical Christians less favourably than others.”