3 of 4 Christians Lose Cases in "Landmark" Religious Rights Ruling in Britain

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The ruling will likely define limits of religious freedom in future cases in Britain.

According to a report by Christianity Today, a landmark religious freedom court case in Britain has been decided against three of four Christians who complained their rights were infringed when they were fired from their employment based on their religious activity. Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane filed separate cases but appealed as one before the European Court of Human Rights, arguing the government failed to uphold their religious freedoms.

In Chaplin’s case, she was fired from her nursing job because she refused to remove a cross necklace from under her uniform. It was found that the removal of the cross was necessary “to protect the health and safety of nurses and patients,” so her case was rejected. Ladele and McFarlane had requested not to officiate same-sex civil unions nor counsel same-sex patients, respectively. The ECHR found the employer and the courts “acted within an allowed margin of appreciation when handling different convention rights, in this case the competing rights of sexual orientation and religious belief.”

The only case that was decided in favor of the employee was the Eweida case, in which the employee of British Airways was dismissed because she wanted to wear a cross to work. The court ruled that since other employees were permitted to wear religious items at work, there was proof of discrimination in this case.

While Dave Landrum, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Association of the United Kingdom, praised the court’s ruling in favor of Eweida, he acknowledged that “a hierarchy of rights now exists in U.K. law.”

“The failure of the court to protect the religious freedom of Lillian Ladele in living out her faith in a way consistent with historic Christian belief shows the limitations of this judgment,” he said. “We need solutions that will allow for the reasonable accommodation of the expressions of religious belief in all its diverse forms.”

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  • Equilibrium

    In the Ladele and McFarlane cases were they both pleading discrimination against their beliefs? If this is so, it is quite hypocritical, as they themselves were quite clearly discriminating against other’s personal beliefs. In the case of the nurse however, I fail to see how it could possibly effect health and safety. Please correct me if I’m wrong but that’s how I see it.

  • chris

    Chaplain should not have been fired and permitted to wear her cross under her uniform. I fail to see how wearing a cross could possibly be an OHS issue in any position. Ladele and McFarlane have every right not to want to officiate at same sex civil unions nor counsel them. The matters could have been referred to a celebrant who would perform these ceremonies. It is a not just a matter of faith but a matter of ethics and being true to themselves. Neither Ladele or McFarlane should definitely not have been fired.

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