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Religious Tolerance logo

Conflicting meanings of religious freedom & liberty

Part 2: 2013-JAN-15: Reactions to the 4 European
Court of Human Rights
cases on religious freedom

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This topic is continued from an earlier essay

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Reactions to the four European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings:

  • Robert Pigott at the BBC News commented:

    "Secularists had insisted that to do otherwise in either Ms Ladele's or Mr McFarlane's case would be demeaning to gay people, and 'retrogressive'. ... The judgement does not mean a company can ignore the religious views of employees but it can override them in order to achieve 'a higher priority' - in this case making sure gay people get equal treatment in the provision of services.

    Companies will be able to ask applicants for jobs what their position is on issues such as civil partnerships or sexual counselling for gay couples, and refuse them the post if their religious beliefs would prevent them from doing the work.

    None of this means that the right of Christians, traditionalist or otherwise, to hold religious beliefs has been undermined by the judgement.

    British courts have distinguished between the right to hold a religious belief - which is protected under the law - and the right to manifest or express it, where the protection is much more qualified.

    Traditionalist Christians claim their rights to freedom of religious conscience have been steadily subordinated to the rights - especially of homosexual people - to equality. ...

    Rights are a matter of balance - the exercise of one person's rights can undermine those of another.

    That balance has shifted during recent decades, and the influence of Christian teaching on British culture and law has steadily waned.

    The European Court of Human Rights has left a milestone on the road to a secular society." 5

  • Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty -- a human rights group said that the decisions are:

    "... an excellent result for equal treatment, religious freedom and common sense. ... [Eweida] had just as much a right to express her faith as a Sikh man in a turban or a Muslim woman with a headscarf. However the court was also right to uphold judgments in other cases that employers can expect staff not to discriminate in the discharge of duties at work." 1

  • Keith Porteous-Wood, of the British National Secular Society, said:

    "Religious people who feel elements of their job go against their conscience can always find employment that better matches their needs. That is true religious freedom." 2

  • Culture News, a fundamentalist Christian group, had its own unique take on the four cases. They wrote:

    "The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Christians must accommodate, celebrate, and even participate in the homosexual lifestyle. The court ruled that Gary MacFarlane, a Christian British marriage counselor, was rightfully fired for refusing to enhance a patient's deviant homosexual lifestyle, and Lilian Ladele, a Christian civil servant, was likewise rightfully fired for refusing to perform same-sex "wedding" ceremonies.

    The court also "threw a bone" to Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee, ruling that she shouldn't have been fired for wearing a tiny cross around her neck." 6

  • Interpretation of Culture News' statement:
    • To many Christian fundamentalist, homosexuality is not one of three normal and natural sexual orientations. It is a chosen form of behavior -- a lifestyle.
    • For a heterosexual sex therapists to counsel a same-sex couple is described as "participating" in their lifestyle.
    • "Enhancing a patient's deviant homosexual lifestyle" means to help a loving, committed same-sex couple to improve their sex life.
    • A civil partnership is equated with a same-sex "wedding." Quotation marks are added around the word wedding to indicate denigration and disapproval of same-sex relationships.

  • Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, commented of Ms Ladele's case in a statement, saying:

    "What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold." 4

  • Evelyne Paradis of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association said:

    "Gay and lesbian advocates said the verdict promises to help stop discrimination against partners of the same sex. Gay couples are frequently refused marriages and other services elsewhere in Europe."

  • The three plaintiffs who lost are planning to appeal their cases to the Grand Chamber. The chamber is a higher ECHR panel of five judges that would deliver a final decision.

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  • One of the BBC News articles received 2,007 comments from readers. Many were removed by the moderators who found that the comments broke the house rules. Some that were published were:

    • MrsDowntoEarth: "Being a Christian is not what you wear on the outside it is what you wear on the inside. Being a Christian is not for showing others but for helping others. Being a Christian is not keeping quiet but for speaking out. I am a Christian and I hope that my life shows others what God can do.

    • webboffin: "There is nothing in the Bible that tells it's followers to wear a cross. The origins of the cross has been linked to paganism. The Bible also teaches not to make engraved images like the nations do also."

    • The Village Idiot: "From a health and safety point of view how many patients were killed by nurses wearing a small cross? It is like asking a workman to wear a safety helmet in open field.....completely pointless and a mis-interpretation of H&S rules."

    • Derpsworth: "Well, if it contravenes your job's rules regardless of religion, if jewelry gets in the way, its in the way regardless of the shape of the pendant. If you cant do your job due to your own bigotry, find a new job. As yet, I've not seen skull caps or turbans getting in the way or contravening H&S. in fact, a lot of jews will remove the skull cap when not in the synagogue.

    • Peakeen: "I wonder how much these arrogant, selfish, stubborn people have cost their employers and the taxpayers over this trivial affair.

    • Ronnie: "For once, the European Court has got something right. British airways and the courts in this country should be hanging their heads in shame. Thanks to the liberal left and the hypocrits of the PC brigade it just shows the decline in standards in this country."

    • MonkHouseByProxy: "Please understand - in the UK most people really don't care about other's religions - or lack of - or other's sexuality - or lack of. Personally, I'd be ok with an openly gay Asian Christian, married to a Jew, raising their kids as Zoroastrians - just so long as he/she did his/her job properly."

    • JamesR1701: "I personally would never disciminate against any religion and treat all people who are religious, (regardless of that religion) equally. This basically means that I think that all religions are man-made cults used to indocrinate and control as much of society as they can whilst making as much money as they can. Ergo all religious people are treated as if they are crazy for their beliefs.

    • sak87: "Why do Christians wear the cross? I'm sure if Jesus is resurrected that would be the LAST thing he'd want to see. The article sums it up perfectly saying the cross was originally worn by pagans MOCKING Christianity.

    • wangsa: "I change my job when it doesn't or no longer comply with my faith. I have done that quite few times. And it applies to not only to religion, but also principle of life and work ethics. I may need job to earn money but I will never prepare and negotiate my integrity as a human. We can always look for a job but not our identity. 4

References used:

  1. "Freedom of religion: Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom (nos. 48420/10 59842/10, 51671/10 et 36516/10)," Press Unit, European Court of Human Rights, 2013-JAN, at: This is a PDF file.
  2. "Christian discrimination claims heard by Europe court ," BBC News, 2013-JAN-15, at:
  3. Jill Lawless, "Christian employee discriminated against for wearing crucifix, court rules," Associated Press, 2013-JAN-16, at:
  4. "British Airways Christian employee Nadia Eweida wins case," BBC News, 2013-JAN-15, at:
  5. Robert Pigott, "Analysis: Milestone left in Christian-secular debate," BBC News, 2013-JAN-15, at:
  6. Emily Alpert, "British Christian wins bias claim, three others lose," Los Angeles Times, 2013-JAN-15, at:

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Home > Religious Freedom > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2013-JAN-16
Latest update: 2013-JAN-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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