Christians to take Government to European court over religious liberty

European judges have ordered ministers to make a formal statement on whether or not they believe that Christians’ rights have been infringed by previous decisions in the British courts, which have repeatedly dismissed their right to be ‘Christian’. This comes after a series of court cases against Christians who believe they have suffered discrimination for their beliefs and are now taking a landmark legal fight in the European court.

Four Christians leading the pivotal new challenge include Nadia Eweida, (known as the BA Lady) mounted a legal action after being barred from wearing a cross around her neck. Their cases have been selected by the European Court as of being of such legal significance that they be examined further.

The four new cases, which come from a range of Christian denominations, could lead to a final legal answer on how religious beliefs must be balanced against equality laws designed to prohibit discrimination against minority religions and other groups such as homosexuals.

The other applicants to the European Court of Human Rights include…

  • Lillian Ladele, a former registrar who objected to conducting homosexual civil partnership ceremonies because of her faith. Because she refused, she experienced disciplinary action by Islington council in north London, where she had worked for 17 years.
  • Gary McFarlane, a Christian relationship counsellor, has also applied to Strasbourg after he was sacked by a Relate, the counselling service, for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexual couples.
  • Shirley Chaplin, a former nurse from Exeter, who was barred from her job in a hospital for wearing a cross.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, the founder and director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting two of the applicants, said,

These cases are massively significant on every front.There seems to be a disproportionate animosity towards the Christian faith and the workings of the courts in the UK has led to deep injustice. If we are successful in Strasbourg I hope the Equalities Act and other diversity legislation will be overturned or overhauled so that Christians are free to work and act in accordance with their conscience. David Cameron now needs to put his money where his mouth is. People with orthodox views on sexual ethics are excluded from employment because they don’t fit in with the equalities and diversity agenda. It is this which we want to see addressed. Such injustice cannot be allowed to continue.

In Mrs Eweida and Mrs Chaplin’s cases, the court asked the British government,

In each case, did the restriction on visibly wearing a cross or crucifix at work amount to an interference with the applicant’s right to manifest her religion or belief, as protected by Article 9 [the right to freedom of religion] of the Convention?”

Mrs Chaplin was struck off by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust after she failed to hide the cross she wore on a necklace chain, even though she had worn the symbol every day since her confirmation and throughout her nursing career which spanned 31 years. She was supported in her battle by senior Anglicans, who also stated that Christians are being persecuted in Britain.

This is a very very important time for Christians in the UK. Whilst we hold to equality as a faith, we also hold to diversity and religious expression. And I think that the UK should be a place where we aren’t forced as Christians to do things that we find morally unacceptable. By this, I’m referring to Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, who refused to actively condone a homosexual relationship within their sphere as an employee.

As for wearing a cross, well, that goes without saying. What if I’m offended by someone’s bright pink T shirt? Should the Government make a law that forbids wearing of that too? Of course not – it’s utterly ridiculous. Same with religious symbols. We should be allowed to wear them.

I’m glad that Christians are standing up to be counted and are willing to fight. It’s a core value of our society that we have a voice, and I don’t think anyone, Christian or not, should ever forget this.

 

 

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Dilys

    Let’s not forget though that there is the issue of infection control in hospitals. No one is allowed to wear jewellery, only small stud earrings and plain wedding bands. In light of that, has the story been slightly exaggerated in the case of the nurse who was not allowed to wear a cross necklace.

    And let’s face it, you don’t HAVE to wear a cross to show you’re a christian….