European Court Of Human Rights Rules On Christian Discrimination Cases

church-cross1The European Court of Human Rights have ruled on several cases where claimants have claimed they were discriminated against by their employers because of their Christian beliefs.

Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee, had her caused upheld by the Human Rights court. Eweida took her case to the European Court after BA banned its staff from wearing crosses. The Judge at the European Court ruled that Eweida’s rights had been violated under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human rights. British Airways has since changed its uniform policy to allow its staff to wear religious symbols.

The ruling by the Judge in the case of Nadia Eweida has been welcomed by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, as well as the Archbishop of York who is quoted by BBC News as saying Christians and those of other religious faiths “should be free to wear the symbols of their own religion without discrimination”.

However, three other cases in which Christians claimed they had been discriminated by their employees over their faith  were not so successful at the court; judges ruled that the three had not had their human rights violated. Gary McFarlane, who was sacked as a marriage counsellor after saying he would object to giving therapy to same sex couples, Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined for refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies, and Shirley Chaplin who was stopped wearing a cross by her employers all brought their cases to the European Court. Although they brought the cases separately all three were heard together and all three lost their cases.

The ruling against the three Christians has been criticised by Dr. John Sentamu but has been welcomed by the National Secular Society who said the rulings would mean we “don’t end up with a hierarchy of rights with religion at the top”. Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, welcomed the ruling in the case of Ms Eweida. Chakrabarti told BBC News that “Strasbourg has actually acted more in keeping with our traditions of tolerance.”  In the other cases bought by Christians though Liberty was supportive of the European Court’s ruling. Chakrabarti told BBC News: “The court was also right to uphold judgments in other cases that employers can expect staff not to discriminate in the discharge of duties at work”.

ATV Today Says:

The right to wear religious symbols – be in a cross or another item – should be upheld and defended. A Christian has the right to wear a cross as those of the Jewish or Islamic or Hindu faith, for example, also have the right to wear symbols or clothing of their own faiths without being discriminated against. Can all Christians claim they do not have prejudices of their own when it comes to religious symbols being to other faiths? Church Cross

Sections of the British press have been keen to create a portrait of Christianity being under attack from secularists and gay rights campaigners. The government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage has been heralded as by some within the right-wing press as further evidence that the “rights” of Christians in the UK are being put pushed ahead in favour of the rights of the “gay minority”. However, many would argue that the “rights” of Christians no not extend to discriminate against another person because of their sexual orientation. No one would defend the right to discriminate against an individual because of their gender or ethnicity so sexuality should be treated the same. If Christians do not want to be discriminated against themselves then they should stop discriminating against others and then maybe tolerance would form on both sides.

[Written by Martha Kirkpatrick and Doug Lambert, quotes from BBC News]

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