The Christian Legal Centre is gearing up for a legal battle which could dominate the next few years. We’re delighted that the European Court has decided to hear the cases of Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele. The CLC will be supporting Mrs Chaplin, the nurse who was told to remove her cross, and Mr McFarlane, the counsellor who was sacked for failing to commit to provide sex therapy to homosexual couples.
Taking a liberty...
Christians and non-Christians alike have been astounded by the results in these cases where there has been an infringement of the freedom to hold and manifest Christian beliefs.
Shirley, Nadia, Gary and Lillian are victims of bad law - law which fails to perform a balance between competing rights and fails to provide the checks and balances needed to ensure the judiciary acts fairly when considering competing rights. It is time to hold the UK government to account.
The judges in Gary’s and Lillian’s cases held that they were discriminating by failing to provide services to homosexual people, and the law did not protect religious belief in this area. In other words, actions have been divorced from faith - an unprecedented leap - but one which is perhaps not surprising against today’s ideological backdrop.
In Gary McFarlane’s case, Lord Justice Laws made some outrageous statements:
religious belief is “incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence”, and “The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified; it is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective, but it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.”
How then can we have confidence that the judiciary will uphold our right to believe and act on those beliefs on issues such as the sanctity of life and the uniqueness of marriage (to name but two)? The clarion call for international intervention has never sounded louder.
Compromise was possible
Nurse Shirley Chaplin’s cross, which she had worn for over twenty years without any problems, did not present a health and safety risk. BA worker Nadia Eweida’s cross which she wore around her neck did not prevent her from being able to carry out her role (BA eventually changed its uniform policy to allow her to wear her cross, but has continued to pursue her claim).
Civil registrar Lillian Ladele was able to swap shifts with colleagues if she was required to preside over a civil partnership ceremony. Counsellor Gary McFarlane could have referred homosexual clients to a colleague. Yet the law found them wanting and, in some cases, labelled their actions discriminatory.
It’s obvious that traditional anti-discrimination law is not working. It must be revised to correct the balance between competing rights.
Does the Court have the answer?
The UK is held in high regard by the international community for the freedoms guaranteed to its citizens. Yet it is now being hauled before an international Court to explain why its citizens’ rights have been violated in the name of ‘anti-discrimination’ and ‘equality’.
This is the court’s great opportunity to make the right decision, re-establishing the rights of Christians to hold and manifest their faith. The future of gospel freedom is at stake and any remaining rights Christians have could be slowly extinguished by a bad judgment. It takes courage for Nadia, Shirley, Gary and Lillian to continue their legal battles. It takes courage for Europe to decide that Christians can continue to speak and live truth in the UK. But that courage will be well rewarded when the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ can continue to shine in this land.
Libby Blaxall is a legal advisor at the Christian Legal Centre and Christian Concern. For more details please visit www.christianconcern.com
Restoring the balance of rights in the UK
It is time to hold the UK government to account for the bad laws unfairly penalising Christians
Published 15 June 2011 | Libby Blaxall