On 4 September, four cases went before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to test the freedom afforded to Christian employees in the UK to express their faith and beliefs in the workplace.
In the ECHR’s four page document, it outlined the applicants as: Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Lilian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, British nationals born in 1951, 1955, 1960 and 1961 respectively.
The document stated: ‘All four applicants are practising Christians who complain that UK law did not sufficiently protect their rights to freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination at work’.
Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee, and Shirley Chaplin, a geriatrics nurse, complained that their employers placed restrictions on visibly wearing Christian crosses around their necks while at work.
Lilian Ladele, a registrar of births, deaths and marriages, and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor, complained about their dismissal for refusing to carry out certain of their duties which they considered would condone homosexuality.
The hearing was recorded and can be watched on www.echr.coe.int/ECHR/homepage_en (although no judgement had been given at the time of ET going to press).
Dr David Landrum, advocacy director for the Evangelical Alliance, said, ‘The cases serve to expose the legal inconsistencies in how religion is presently being treated in public life.
‘If people are to now be disbarred from certain jobs on the basis of their core beliefs then only atheists need apply.
‘If we are to avoid dividing our society through a proliferation of such court cases, we need to review the Equality Act, reform the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and get some unequivocal messages from our government that it is okay to be Christian in 21st Century Britain’.
The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) is supporting Ms Chaplin and Mr McFarlane, and has criticised heavily Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘support’ for Christians, given his lack of protection for the four applicants.
In a statement, Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and founder of the CLC, said, ‘The Government’s double standards in its handling of these four cases has been astonishing.
‘The Prime Minister has been asked, repeatedly, to intervene in these cases and back the four Christians who have served the public through their varied professions.
‘He has failed dismally. He says one thing to the media and in Parliament and yet shuns such statements at the most critical time; in legal submissions to the European Court of Human Rights’.