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European Court Tells U.K. Government to Clarify Rights of Christians

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By Alison Matheson, Christian Post Correspondent
June 6, 2011|4:11 am

Christians in the U.K. have come a step closer to clarification on the country’s confusing Equality Laws after an intervention by the European court in Strasbourg.

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights has told the U.K. government that it must state whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the cross and opt out of diversity legislation.

The statement must make clear whether the rights of Christians have been infringed by successive rulings by British courts blocking them from wearing Christian symbols or acting according to their faith.

A landmark legal challenge has been taken to the European court by four Christians who feel that they are being discriminated against by the U.K.’s Equality Laws, introduced in recent years to prevent discrimination against minorities, including homosexuals and those of other faiths.

According to U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, the court regards the four cases as being of such legal significance that they should be examined further.

The challenge is being mounted by Nadia Eweida, a British Airways worker stopped from wearing a cross necklace; former registrar Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined for refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies; Christian relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane, who was sacked by counseling service Relate for saying he could not give sex therapy counseling to gay couples; and Shirley Chaplain, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards after refusing to remove her cross necklace.

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All four applicants lost appeals in the British courts.

Two of the applicants are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre. Its founder and director Andrea Minichiello Williams said the cases were “massively significant.”

“There seems to be a disproportionate animosity towards the Christian faith and the workings of the courts in the U.K. has led to deep injustice,” she said.

“If we are successful in Strasbourg I hope the Equalities Act and other diversity legislation will be overturned or overhauled so that Christians are free to work and act in accordance with their conscience.”

She added: “People with orthodox views on sexual ethics are excluded from employment because they don’t fit in with the equalities and diversity agenda.

“It is this which we want to see addressed. Such injustice cannot be allowed to continue.”

The European court will decide whether to have full hearings after U.K. ministers have responded.

 

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