Four British citizens who claim they were fired from their jobs because of their Christian beliefs have taken their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.
While all four Christians have different stories, they all lost their cases at employment tribunals in the U.K., and have asked for the European Court to hear their cases and acknowledge their right to express their faith while on the job. A decision on whether the human rights court will hear their cases is not expected for several weeks.
The four cases involve: British Airways check-in clerk Nadia Eweida from South London, who was told by the company in 2006 that she could not wear her cross necklace at work; relationship counselor Gary McFarlane who was fired after admitting to his employer that he would have a conscientious objection to giving sex therapy advice to gay couples; Lilian Ladele, a registrar from North London who refused to conduct same-sex civil union ceremonies; and nurse Shirley Chaplin, who was demoted from her position after she insisted on wearing her Christian cross.
"They wanted me to hide my cross and chain, which to me is akin to denying my faith," Chaplin has said.
"Today, for the first time, I heard somebody talking about my rights," McFarlane said after a hearing on Tuesday. "Surely I have some rights. I am a member of society. I have some beliefs."
The group has claimed that the British government "failed to adequately to protect their right to manifest their religion," which goes against Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the BBC reported.
"The crucial question in these cases is this: could these four individuals have been reasonably accommodated and their Christian faith respected, without detriment or damage to the rights of others – and the answer to that question is clearly yes," said Andrew Marsh, campaign director at religious group Christian Concern.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, an organization which acts as the U.K.'s equality watchdog, has said that the British tribunals were right in their decisions regarding the Ladele and McFarlane cases, but admitted that Eweida and Chaplin may have a good case before the European court.
The National Secular Society has warned, however, that any ruling in favor of the Christians could "undermine" the U.K.'s equality law, and would place religion above employers.
"We think that if it goes the wrong way it will cause a hierarchy of right, with religion at the top, and it's going to be bad news for employers and for gay people," Keith Porteous Wood, the society's director, has said.
A poll on The Huffington Post gathering people's views on whether the Christians have been discriminated against showed divided opinions, with 48 percent of voters saying they believe the Christian plaintiffs were discriminated against and 51 percent disagreeing.