Full statement from Andrea Minichiello Williams on rejection of Christian discrimination cases
Andrea Minichiello Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, says the European court's rejection of workplace discrimination cases involving three UK Christians shows that the Prime Minister's assurances of protection for freedom of conscience are "worthless".
The European Court of Human Rights has washed its hands of these cases and said that it is down to member states to rule on these matters. The European Court has made it cleat that it doesn't want to interfere.
With sexual orientation a 'protected characteristic' under UK equality laws, Christians' consciences concerning marriage and sexual ethics is not protected. We have seen time and again in British courts that when they come into conflict, sexual orientation rights trump freedom of religion rights.
The decision of the Grand Chamber panel shows that the European Court cannot be relied upon.
The Government needs to take note. The ECHR can no longer be considered a crutch to lean on if Christians face legal challenge in relation to potential same sex marriage legislation.
In the Bill as it stands there is no provision, for example, for individual clergy. If the Church of England 'opt in' to conducting same sex marriages, there is absolutely no protection for individual clergy who may refuse to conduct such services. Up to one in ten CofE clergy could take this position which could result in thousands of people losing their jobs over their Christian beliefs about marriage.
The rash nature of this legislation is being exposed. The vote on the Bill in the House of Commons last week revealed the political mood in Britain. None of the amendments intended to protect freedom of conscience for those who believe in traditional marriage were accepted. There is a complete disrespect for and refusal to accommodate conscience.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution last month calling on its member states to respect conscience and accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere. The British Government is clearly failing to do this. A radical rehaul of our legal and political systems is required where the principles of freedom of conscience and religious accommodation are enshrined.