Duncan Lewis

Legal Aid

Lawyers London

Christian may opt out of the job if they felt their religious belief was compromised says government lawyers

Date: (5 September 2012)    |    

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The lawyers representing government against the landmark case brought by four Christians in Strasbourg court told the court that Christians may have to sacrifice their jobs if they want to express their religion at work.
They urged human rights judges in Strasbourg to reject the case brought by four Christians who said they suffered faith-based discrimination.
The lawyers insisted that workers were not entitled to wear a crucifix at work against the wishes of their employers, and if that was conflicting with their faith they ‘were free to resign’.
David Cameron had told the Commons in July that the right to wear the cross at work was ‘an absolutely vital freedom’.
He even pledged to change the law to ‘make clear that people can wear religious symbols at work.’
But after government’s stand at the Strasbourg court Christians attacked it for ‘astonishing double standards’.
The state lawyers said that nowhere in the scriptures there was a mention that wearing a crucifix was a requirement of Christianity, so that the employers were obliged to recognize the practice.
But in a confrontation at the court yesterday, the Christians’ counsel said it was wrong they should have fewer rights than other faith groups just because they had a ‘tolerant’ religion.
The hearing at the European Court of Human Rights involved four test cases, two of which involve employees being prevented from wearing a cross at work. Nadia Eweida’s who was objected by her employer British Airways which eventually backed down in 2006 and Shirley Chaplin who, working as a nurse for 30 years was told she could no longer wear her cross on duty for health and safety reasons
The other two cases are those of Lilian Ladele, who was sacked as a registrar by Islington council because she declined to conduct civil partnerships and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor who lost his job in Bristol after admitting to bosses that he felt unable to give sex therapy to gays.
The case has come at a time when senior Christian leaders, including the archbishops of the Church of England and the Pope, have complained that Christianity was being pushed out of public life in Britain.
Paul Diamond, for Mrs Chaplin and Mr McFarlane, said that these were real people, real lives, real damage suffered. The situation in the UK is now critical.
But James Eadie QC, acting for the Government, told the judges that none of the four Christians had suffered any form of discrimination.