LONDON – The Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt told the BBC’s "The World This Weekend" that there is an “imbalance” in the legal system with regards to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths pursuing the calling of their faith in public life.
The Bishop of Winchester expressed concerns over rulings being handed down by court judges in the U.K. in cases involving Christians as he warned of “a lack of religious literacy” in Parliament and among those in the judiciary.
It was becoming, he added, increasingly “difficult” for devoted believers to work in the public services and even in Parliament.
“Probably for the first time in our history there is a widespread lack of religious literacy among those who one way and another hold power and influence, whether it’s Parliament or the media or even, dare I say it, in the judiciary,” he said. “Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on."
He lamented that contemporary society seems to consider secularist views as "statements of the obvious" while considering religious views as "notions of the mind." And judges are following suit.
“The judges ought to be religiously literate enough to know that there is an argument behind all this, which can’t simply be settled by the nature of society as it is today," he said.
The bishop pointed to the case of Gary McFarlane as evidence of a legal bias under the Human Rights Act toward protecting the rights of minorities over those of Christians, particularly in the area of sexuality.
McFarlane was sacked by counseling organization Relate in 2007 after he told them that it would be against his Christian beliefs to offer sex counseling to same-sex couples. He lost an appeal against his dismissal in April this year.
His was just one of many high profile cases involving Christians and their employers in the last few years.
In March, Christian registrar Lillian Ladele lost her appeal at the Supreme Court against Islington council, which threatened to dismiss her unless she performed same-sex civil partnership registrations. She is appealing the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights.
The last remaining Catholic adoption agency is also in the middle of a court battle to maintain its right to work with a Catholic ethos that refuses to place children in homosexual families. All other Catholic adoption agencies have either closed or changed their ethos following the introduction of equality laws.
"That is the culture in which we are living," lamented Scott-Joynt.