There must be no privilege for Christians before the law

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has commented on calls by a number of church leaders, led by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, for special treatment of Christians in Court of Appeal hearings, describing the request as a threat to justice and part of an ongoing fiction of persecution against Christians in the UK.  Lord Carey will urge senior judges to stand down from Court of Appeal hearings involving religious discrimination, and for their replacement with a specially selected panel of judges.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented, ‘Equality before the law is a hard-fought for right and a cornerstone of a modern, civilised, liberal democracy and of a healthy justice system. It is astonishing that Lord Carey and other senior figures are asking to be able to pick and choose which judges sit on cases involving alleged discrimination against Christians. We would expect that sort of action in a theocracy, not in modern Britain. Such a request will not be supported by ordinary Christians, let alone the rest of the population, and it must be roundly opposed by the judiciary and by the Church of England.’

The BHA has expressed its regret that cases of alleged discrimination in the workplace are increasingly being used for propaganda purposes by groups seeking to create the impression that Christians are being ‘persecuted’.

Commenting last week on an employment tribunal judgment which found that a nurse who was asked to remove a necklace with a crucifix was not illegally discriminated against, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘Many observers share our concern about the false and misleading narrative that increasing numbers of churches and aggressive Christian lobby groups are attempting to create when they react to or actively promote cases like this. The story they are telling has it that Christians are being marginalised from public life and persecuted at work, when in fact churches retain enormous privileges and there is no evidence at all that employment discrimination against Christians is a real phenomenon. Freedom of religion or belief is a precious freedom, but its interests are not best served by attempting to talk up claims of persecution and discrimination.’

Notes

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips, 020 7079 3585 or 07540 257101.

The British Humanist Association represents and supports the non-religious. 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.