By BosNewsLife News Center
STRASBOURG/LONDON (BosNewsLife)– The European Court of Human Rights has refused to allow another appeal of three British Christian professionals who claimed they were dismissed for openly expressing their Christian faith, representatives told BosNewsLife Wednesday, May 29.
“The Grand Chamber…rejected the request for referral from three British Christians, including Christian Legal Center clients Shirley Chaplin and Gary McFarlane,” said advocacy group Christian Concern (CC).
The third Christian, Lillian Ladele, was also told her case was rejected. “The European Court decided that decisions of the UK Courts were within the…discretion that it allows to national courts,” CC said.
Yet CC claimed there was a partial victory for religious freedom because of the way the European Court had formulated its arguments. “[The European Court] challenged many of the principles adopted by UK Courts and asserted by the British government. So for example…the government had made the remarkable assertion that the cross was not a generally recognized Christian symbol.”
That was a reference to Chaplin who had worn a cross necklace throughout her nearly thirty years in frontline nursing. She was eventually dismissed from her duties by the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust for refusing to remove what she viewed as a “symbol” of her faith in Christ.
EXPRESSION OF FAITH
However, “The European Court ruled that, in principle, wearing the cross is an expression of Christian faith and so is a freedom to be protected,” CC explained.
Additionally, the European Court also challenged British courts who suggested that marriage “as between a man and a woman was not a core component of Christian belief and so not protected,” CC said.
That was an encouragement for Gary McFarlane, an experienced relationships counselor, who was dismissed after indicating during a training course that based on his Christian faith he might have a “conscientious objection to providing sex therapy” to homosexual couples.
“The European Court said that these beliefs were part of Gary [and Lillian’s] Christian identity and so were in principle protected,” CC observed.
Though it rejected her case as well, the European Court made clear it respected the Christian faith of Lillian Ladele, a marriage registrar,
who worked for Islington Borough Council in London. When civil partnerships were legalized in 2004, Ladele refused to conduct them,
saying it was against her religious beliefs.
In December 2007, the local authority changed the rules governing their registrar’s working conditions which allowed her to swap civil partnership ceremonies with colleagues, to a system which granted her far less flexibility.
In July 2008, an employment tribunal ruled in Ladele’s favour, saying she had been harassed, but later that year the Employment Appeal Tribunal reversed the ruling, which was upheld in appeal.
While the Christians lost their cases on technicalities, CC said the battle was far from over. “These are significant breakthroughs and will be a great help in contending for Christian freedoms in the UK Courts in the future.”
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Last month the Council of Europe. Europe’s main rights watchdog, reportedly passed a resolution calling on all member states to respect conscience and accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere.
The situation facing British Christians, including the cases of the three Christians, was mentioned in report and CC claimed they influenced the Council of Europe’s opinion.
“This month, a member of the EU Delegation to the International Organizations in Vienna wrote: “We are concerned about rising anti-Christian intolerance and violence… a trend which often remains unnoticed,” CC noted.
“These cases have played a part in highlighting the increasing frequency of low-level discrimination against Christians. We will continue to stand up for God’s truth and support Christians who face legal challenge for manifesting their faith,” the group added.
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