In his address to the Brethren at Limavady, guest of honour, Rev Alastair Smyth commended the moral stance taken during the week by Asher Bakery, Newtownabbey, in refusing to produce a cake bearing a message supporting gay marriage.
Rev Alistair Smyth, the Deputy Grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge, also spoke out against legislation that stifled religious liberty, branding it “quite obviously bad law”.
As a clergyman and one of the chaplains in Limavady District Rev Smyth underlined the message of the County Grand Chaplain, Rev Joseph Andrews, about the work of the Christian Institute, which in the past two years had received £30,000 from the Orange Institution.
“The good work being done by the Christian Institute has been highlighted over recent days in the legal advice being given by the Institute to the Asher Bakery who refused to bake a cake decorated with a message promoting homosexual marriage,” he said.
“Legislation which stifles religious liberty in this way is quite obviously bad law. So, well done the Asher Bakery and well done the Christian Institute,” he said adding: “Every right-thinking Christian man and woman stands with you because as Acts Chapter 5 and verse 29 tells us, ‘we must obey God rather than men’.”
Turning to the issue of Unionism throughout the United Kingdom, Rev Smyth said that for years the greatest threat to the Union “seemed to come from the relentless violent attacks of Irish Republicanism. But, in more recent times, the attack has come, though thankfully peacefully, from Scottish Nationalism”.
So, it was, he said in the third Resolution that Brethren and Sisters in the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland were encouraged in their opposition to independence and that they were assured of the support of the Brethren in Northern Ireland: “You can be a proud Scot and a proud Briton, as I can be a proud Ulsterman and a proud Briton. We are British together, stronger together. United we stand, divided we fall.”
Addressing the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, Rev Smyth said he had already dedicated a number of banners commemorating the war, saying: “We salute the memory of those who paid the supreme sacrifice and laid down their lives for King and Country and the defence of those values we hold dear. What a contrast between those men of honour, valour and courage, not least those from the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division, and those from the IRA and other terrorist groups who skulked behind ditches and hedges to murder their neighbours in cold blood.”
Condemning the letters of pardon which came to light some months ago, he said: “Which brings me to the recent controversy of the ‘On the Runs’. The skulduggery of some in high places beggars belief. Like many across the Province, including people from various religious backgrounds, we were horrified to learn of the grotesque and underhand deal between Her Majesty’s Government and Sinn Fein, resulting in secret comfort letters being sent to republican paramilitary suspects.
“Once again, the memory of our 332 murdered brethren and other innocent civilians has been trampled into the muck by the shabby, secret, dirty deal done by Tony Blair and the Northern Ireland Office and carried on by the present administration. I say, ‘Shame on them’.
Looking to the future, he said: “The battle for civil and religious liberty for which King William III fought at the Boyne is a battle that has to be fought again in every generation. The buzz-word from many quarters is a ‘shared space’. But, if republicans are not prepared to share a stretch of road for 6 minutes that does not bode well for the future.
Highlighting the Parades Commission ruling on Ligoniel in Belfast and the eight attacks on Orange halls, Rev Smyth said these demonstrated the “intolerance and hatred” being shown to the faith, culture and traditions of the PUL communities.
“Let me at this point also say this. We in the Orange Order totally condemn all attacks on Roman Catholic places of worship or any other place of worship. We also condemn the burning of effigies or electoral posters on bonfires.
“The intolerance being shown by republicans is, of course, aided and abetted by many of the determinations of the Parades Commission. The Parades Commission has crumbled before the threat of violence from republican groups like Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, “ he said, adding: “Therefore, we call again upon the Secretary of State to urgently replace the legislation which established the Parades Commission in order to arrive at a fairer, more equitable system. We welcome the help and unity of purpose shown by the combined Unionist leaders on this issue.”
He continued: “We call upon all our Brethren and all right-thinking people to give full-hearted support to our campaign to see the principles of democracy restored. We appeal to all our Brethren today to keep their legitimate protests peaceful and legal. This campaign needs to be fought not on the streets of Northern Ireland but in the corridors of power,” he said, calling on people to place their trust in Christ.