Christians and other believers have been bullied in the workplace, harassed in public, picked on in school, and denied access to goods, services and events, a wide-ranging study has found.
These and other issues were made evident in the 226-page consultation Religion or belief in the workplace and service delivery: findings from a call for evidence, published by the European Union’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
According to the consultation, many Christians, Jews and Muslims had been turned down from prospective employment or subjected to discrimination in the workplace. It also found that children in school had been the victims of anti-religious bullying and teasing in the classroom.
Following its call for evidence on the laws protecting freedom of religion or belief last year, both people of religious belief and humanists presented cases to the EHRC over where faith seemingly conflicts with public life.
In one section, the report said, ‘Some Christian participants wanted an unqualified right to express their religious views that was not subject to any restrictions. However, this view was a cause of concern to many non-religious participants. A humanist participant, for example, stated that religion was not an inherent characteristic in the same way as other protected characteristics such as race, gender and sexual orientation.
‘Rather, it was argued, religion was a characteristic that sometimes needed to be limited in its influence, because its followers often tried to demonstrate that their views were better than others and potentially could control people’s lives’.
Responding to the consultation, Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, urged Christians to speak up for their faith. Writing in the Telegraph, Lord Carey called the report evidence that society was ‘increasingly illiterate about religious faith’.
He said, ‘Expressions of religious opinion or practice are often misunderstood or provoke discomfort, anxiety and even hostility, rather than toleration. The main hostility towards religious believers comes from a very small minority of bigoted atheists, who seek to banish all religious belief from public life completely’.
However, rather than hiding our light under a bushel, he encouraged Christians to speak up for their faith and articulate their beliefs in ‘sensible and courteous ways’.