There’s an epic faith battle playing itself out in the European court system that will have a monumental impact on public expressions of faith in the workplace.
The stakes are certainly high in the case, which was brought by four Christians who claim they were discriminated against when they were told that they could not wear a crucifix to work (additionally, two additional individuals have related cases surrounding same-sex attraction). Rather than defending the individuals’ rights, government lawyers are siding with employers, claiming that believers may need to sacrifice their jobs if they wish to express their faith in such a public manner.
According to these lawyers, religious individuals are not legally entitled to the right to wear crosses against the will of their employers. Because the crucifix isn’t “a scriptural requirement,” the government says employers aren’t obligated to allow it. This argument paints a starkly different picture from United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron’s previous promises to change laws in a fashion that would protect religious expression in the workplace — something that apparently won’t be happening.
“There is a difference between the professional sphere where your religious beliefs conflict with other interests and the private sphere,” said James Eadie QC, a legal representative for the government. “Everyone has the right to express their beliefs, including the right to display religious symbols, but not an absolute right or a right without limits.”
These arguments were heard this week at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. TheBlaze first reported about this important religious freedom case back in March. Now, the battle is coming down to its final weeks and months, with both sides working diligently to advance their cause.
While the United Kingdom is arguing against these freedoms, Christians are responding — and quite harshly. Some believers are attacking the government for failing to protect the rights of its citizens. In court, their lawyers most recently argued that it is wrong for Christian adherents to have fewer rights than other religious peoples who may be theologically-required to wear a symbol or garment and, thus, would be permitted to do so.
“These are real people, real lives, real damage suffered,” Paul Diamond, for lawyer for the Christians explained. “There is no knowing where this will end as society moves in a secular direction. The situation in the UK is now critical.”
The Daily Mail has more about the individuals and the cases that are involved in the monumentally-important court battle:
The hearing at the European Court of Human Rights involved four test cases, two of which involve employees prevented from wearing a cross at work. Nadia Eweida’s row with British Airways led the airline to back down in 2006 and Shirley Chaplin who – after 30 years as a nurse – was told she could no longer wear her cross on duty for health and safety reasons.
The other two cases are those of Lilian Ladele, who was sacked as a registrar by Islington council because she declined to conduct civil partnerships and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor who lost his job in Bristol after admitting to bosses that he felt unable to give sex therapy to gays. […]
The case comes at a time when senior Christian leaders, including the archbishops of the Church of England and the Pope, have complained that Christianity is being pushed out of public life in Britain.
Eadie had a tough message for those Christians who are demanding they be allowed to wear their crosses in the workplace and for those who wish to avoid marrying or treating gay couples and individuals.
“Employees are free to resign if they find their employment incompatible with their religious beliefs,” he said. “They can obtain alternative employment in which they can reflect their religion as they wish.”
As TheBlaze has previously reported, the European Court of Human Rights is based in Strasbourg, France, and is not a part of the European Union’s patchwork of institutions but rather aligned to the Council of Europe, which is dedicated to the protection of human rights across 47 countries. The New York Times reports that the court considers cases brought against nations that are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights.
It will likely be several months before a ruling is made.
(H/T: Daily Mail)