Tribunal ruling against religious discrimination claim is a victory for equality

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling that a Christian relationship counsellor who lost his job after refusing to work with gay or lesbian couples was not a victim of unlawful religious discrimination. Gary McFarlane, who had been employed by the publicly-funded national relationship support service Relate, had claimed that his Christian beliefs made him unable to work with gay couples and brought a case against his employer under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Public Affairs Officer, said, ‘We are seeing increasing numbers of cases testing this relatively new legislation. What has been made clear from this judgment, as in the case of Lillian Ladele, is that the  right to manifest one’s religious belief is a limited right and does not ‘trump’ the rights of service users to be treated equally. In other words, a person who is providing a public service should not permitted to discriminate in ways that are unlawful, even when that desire to discriminate derives from a religious belief.’

Ms Phillips continued, ‘There are amendments tabled to the Equality Bill, about to complete its stages in the House of Commons, that seek to clarify the law in this area, and make clear that people have a right to be treated with respect and without discrimination when they access and receive public services, and that there is no “opt out” for those who do not wish to treat people equally on the basis of their beliefs.’

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For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.

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The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state