European Court of Human Rights considers hearing cases which demand more privilege for Christianity

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is considering hearing cases concerning four claims of religious discrimination – cases which have previously lost when heard by English tribunals and courts. Two of these cases – Chaplin and McFarlane – are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC). The BHA has previously reported on instances of alleged discrimination such as these, which had subsequently been judged to be unfounded.

The cases include that of Nadia Eweida, who continued to claim discrimination, despite the fact that the Court of Appeal had ruled that she had not faced any such religious discrimination by her employer British Airways.  Also included are the cases of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who refused to fulfil her duties because of her ‘orthodox Christian beliefs’ opposing same-sex civil partnerships; Gary McFarlane, who lost his job as a counsellor at Relate for refusing to give therapy to gay couples; and Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was asked to stop wearing her crucifix to work.

The Christian Legal Centre has stated that it hopes ‘the Equalities Act [sic] and other diversity legislation will be overturned or overhauled so that Christians are free to work and act in accordance with their conscience’. The BHA and the European Humanist Federation (EHF) have strongly criticised claims that Christians are being ‘discriminated against’ by human rights and equality legislation in the UK. 

Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is of great concern that these cases might be heard by the ECHR not least because our own domestic courts have been so robust in their dismissals of them. The victim narrative of these kinds of claims have no basis in reality. What they describe as discrimination and marginalisation of Christians is in fact the proper upholding of human rights and equalities law and principles.’

David Pollock, President of the European Humanist Federation further commented, ‘What the Christian organisations supporting these cases want is not equality and non-discrimination but yet more legal privilege for Christianity when the law already allows churches to discriminate against gays, and non-Christians.’

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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf 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.