Nearly 2,000 people have turned up at meetings in support of Ashers Baking Company as the owners prepare to present their case at the U.K. Supreme Court later this week.
According to The Christian Institute, nearly 400 people were present at an event in Newtownabbey, and more than 250 attended the meeting in Bangor. In Craigavon, the meeting reportedly had to be relocated due to the large interest at the event, with around 600 people in attendance.
More than 300 people were present at the event in Limavady, Co. Londonderry, and nearly the same number of people attended the final event in Clogher Valley, the institute reported.
"This meeting was an opportunity for people to show their support for the McArthur family as their case heads to the Supreme Court," Callum Webster of the Christian Institute said, according to The Belfast Telegraph.
"It was also an opportunity to make Christians on the ground aware of the issues that are at stake - as the court case will impact many people in society, many people with family run businesses, all across society if the precedents which have been set are allowed to stand by the Supreme Court," he added.
The Institute's Legal Defence Fund is supporting the owners of the bakery in a discrimination lawsuit brought by Northern Ireland's Equality Commission.
The case stems from the refusal of McArthur family — who own Ashers — to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for gay activist Gareth Lee in 2014. The McArthurs are seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that found them guilty of breaching the U.K.'s inequality laws.
During the meetings organized by the institute, the supporters were told about the background of the case, the ruling against Ashers as well as the implications of the anticipated Supreme Court ruling.
The institute argued that Christians "cannot switch-off our faith when it comes to the workplace" and that "God must be glorified" not just in church but also in "every area of our lives."
"The Ashers case is a current example of compelled speech, people being forced to say something they disagree with, or promote a cause they believe to be wrong," the Institute contended.
Among the justices expected to preside in the case are President of the Court Lady Hale, Deputy President Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black.
The hearing will be taking place in the Inns of Court Library at the Royal Courts of Justice in Northern Ireland, making it only the second time in history that a Supreme Court hearing is held outside of London.