Court Victories for Equality AND Religious Freedom

Public arguments about the rights to religious freedom and to equality for all under the law have frequently been presented as if they were mutually exclusive, and presented at a high decibel level, with defenders on both sides shouting past each other. A set of decisions handed down yesterday by the European Court of Human Rights demonstrated that the two can indeed co-exist. There is no inherent conflict – as long as we respect the principle that no one right overrides all others. Everything must be kept in balance.

All four cases concerned allegations that the right to freedom of religion had been violated. In two cases where complaints concerned an apparent conflict between Christian rights to freedom of expression and LGBT equality before the law, the complaints were rejected and equality won out.

Two Christians, who claim that they were fired because they wouldn’t work with gay couples, have lost their anti-discrimination case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane both refused to work with same-sex couples because of their Christian faith. They were subsequently fired and say it was an act of discrimination. Ms Ladele was a marriage registrar for London’s Islington Borough Council but refused to conduct civil partnerships. Mr McFarlane, from Bristol, was a relationship counsellor who was sacked in 2008 after saying he refused to give sex therapy to gay couples.

– more at Pink News

What was important in these two cases, was that the complainants were not seeking simply freedom of religion and religious expression, but the right on those grounds to withhold professional services to same – sex couples, which in terms of their employment conditions, they were being paid to deliver on a basis of equality for all.

– More at  Queering the Church.

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