European court intervenes over rights of Christians

The Government has been told it must clarify whether the rights of Christians have been infringed by recent rulings by British courts.

The request has been made by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on behalf of four Christians who have been penalised for expressing their faith in the workplace.

They have turned to the European court after losing appeals in the British courts.

The court has deemed that their cases are of such legal significance as to warrant further examination.

The applicants include Nadia Eweida, a British Airways worker who was prevented from wearing a cross with her uniform.

The Christian Legal Centre is supporting two applicants, Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor who was sacked by Relate because he said he could not provide sex therapy to a gay couple, and Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards after she refused to remove a cross necklace.

The fourth applicant is former registrar Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined by a north London council for refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

The court will decide upon whether to hold further hearings after government ministers have had the chance to respond.

The Government’s statement will go some way to clearing up the confusion over what Christians have under equality laws introduced in recent years to prevent discrimination against minorities, including people of other faiths and homosexuals.

Founder and director of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams, 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.”

She added: “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.”

Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld Italy’s right to display crucifixes in its school classrooms after a protracted legal battle between the state and a parent who said their presence breached her right to educate her children along secular lines.

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