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September 4th, 2012
08:07 AM ET

Christians take discrimination cases to Europe's top court

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Four British Christians urged Europe's top court Tuesday to rule that they faced discrimination because of their religious beliefs.

Two women accuse their employers of refusing to let them wear crosses openly at work.

Alongside them, a woman who declined to register gay civil partnerships and a man who did not want to give sex therapy to same-sex couples say they were unfairly dismissed from their jobs.

Gary McFarlane, the relationship counselor, said he was pleased with the way Tuesday's hearing went.

"Today, for the first time, I heard somebody talking about my rights," he said. "Surely I have some rights. I am a member of society. I have some beliefs."

He called it a "tragedy" that the case had gone all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

He blamed "overzealous employers" who "would not consider reasonable accommodation" for his religious beliefs.

He never refused to treat a specific couple, raising his religious objections only in the abstract, said Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting him.

He and the other three Christians are fighting the British government, saying it failed to protect their rights.

The case could help to draw a clear boundary in cases where religious views contradict laws against discrimination. It will have implications across 47 countries on the continent. The court ruling will not be binding in Britain in the way that a Supreme Court ruling would be, but the country is legally obliged to take it into account.

The four - Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, who wanted to wear crosses; registrar Lilian Ladele; and McFarlane, the relationship counselor - have lost every round of their battles through the British legal system.

They're now making their claims under European human rights law, focusing on guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination at work.

Eweida, who works for British Airways, said she experienced discrimination from 2006 to 2007, when she started wearing the cross visibly and was transferred to another job. The airline has since changed its policy on uniforms to allow employees to wear religious or charity symbols.

But Chaplin, a nurse, ultimately lost her job after her employer changed its uniforms to include V-necks, which made her cross visible. Her manager asked her to remove it for fear it could lead to injury when she was working with patients, according to court papers.

She refused.

Both women lost their cases in British employment tribunals.

Eweida's tribunal ruled that wearing a cross was a personal choice, not a requirement of Christianity, while Chaplin's tribunal found there were legitimate health and safety reasons to bar her from wearing the symbol around her neck.

Chaplin said Tuesday that she didn't believe it.

"The council that runs risk assessment said they have no previous cases of injury from crucifixes," she said after the hearing concluded.

Ladele and McFarlane also lost employment tribunal battles, with the tribunals finding that their employers could require them to perform their jobs.

Their employers were entitled to refuse to accommodate religious views that contradicted British laws banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the tribunals found.

All four Christians were denied hearings further up the British legal chain, pushing their cases to the European Court in Strasbourg.

Its rulings normally take months after a case is argued.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Britain • Christianity • Church and state • Europe • Religious liberty

soundoff (1,277 Responses)
  1. ScottCA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLg5gWIhJg8
    Great talk abut religion.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  2. ScottCA

    http://www.youtube.com/user/hitchenschannel?feature=results_main

    September 5, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  3. ScottCA

    "Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people, otherwise their would be no religious people." – House
    Very well said ,House.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJwhqhqBtbo

    September 5, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  4. UhYeaOk

    What a load of BS. If some redneck who was a member of the KKK came for counseling and the councilor was black I am certain they would say " Im not working with them, get someone else" and you know as well as I do that it would happen. Everyone has rights until it is found out they are Christian then the rights argument goes out the door. Most of the people posting on this article are a bunch of lying hypocrites.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • Wholly Goats

      It must be God's will.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      " Most of the people posting on this article are a bunch of lying hypocrites." And you are the worst, but I guess God made us all that way, right? Everything happens for the nest in this, the best of all possible worlds.

      September 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  5. David

    Really tired of the God crap...like God gives those the right to be bigots, a racist,...basically discriminate everyone who doesn't think your way ...how does it feel...how does it feel ????

    September 5, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • ScottCA

      Now they get to know how gays and lesbians feel being discriminated against.
      the difference is that gays aren't hurting anyone else by loving another human. The religious are hurting everyone with their ignorance.

      September 5, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      ...yeah, not like there are Gay and Lesbian Christians. Scott, please post more videos cause your arguments are definitely your Achilles heel. 🙂

      September 5, 2012 at 3:34 am |
    • Yo

      He's got you there videofool

      September 5, 2012 at 4:02 am |
  6. Paul46

    @Atheists are hopeless people: Where on earth do you get your history? You're 100% wrong. Christianity burned books & scientists for nearly 1000 years. We call it the Dark Ages. Islam gathered the books from Greece & Rome–the Church burned them (at Alexandria, remember?) Students came from around the world to study at Islam's schools in Cordoba. BUT, the Christians killed off the Moors too. We can thank Islam for saving civilization AND Christianity, its sister religion. Read more.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  7. Darkon

    This has almost certainly been mentioned here, but feel that repeating it one more time won't hurt anything. Religious groups are masters of playing the victim card. When they are the minority in any given society and perceive that their rights aren't being honored, they whine and complain and make accusations of discrimination until they get their way, even if it's to the detriment of the wider society. That all changes when they gain any measure of power. Suddenly they'll impose their dogma on everyone else, disregarding their OWN rights, and Heaven help them if their try to challenge the religious authority in any respect.

    Just look at past history for proof. If we were to go back in time 500-1000 years ago, these same people currently crying foul over their rights would've been chomping at the bit to see people burned at the stake over asking for any kind of freedom. THAT'S why there is a "war on religion." When you give these zealots an inch, they will take a mile. They have to be kept down and controlled.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      What a load of crap, Christians in particular face much more censorship and discrimination than many "minority" groups do today. I have yet to see any cry wolf for no reason. Athiests such as you Darkon could care less about equal rights as long as you are ok, the hell with anyone else right?............

      September 5, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Wholly Goats

      UhYeaOk,

      You must be the chosen ones.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  8. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on religion to include Mormonism:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    September 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      The origins of your post have been dated back to your last bowel movement. Have fun writing your nonsense....

      September 5, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Reality

      AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

      Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

      "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.
      Some added references to "tink-erbells".

      newadvent.org/cathen/07049c.htm

      "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
      Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

      "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

      And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

      "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

      "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

      "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

      For added information see the review at:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel

      September 5, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  9. † Evangelical Christian †

    Europe is Christian... this is ridiculous!

    September 4, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  10. joe7828

    If you are christian and want to save others, wearing a cross is not going to do the trick, and it will not get you into heaven.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      Where in that article did it say they wanted to wear a cross so they could save others? Your anti religion bias keeps the blinders on 24/7 eh?

      September 5, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  11. Colin

    Release the lions, release the lions......

    September 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Chad

      It's been tried.

      Didnt work then, wont work now 🙂

      September 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Colin

      Agreed. Release the scientists, release the scientists.....

      that should do it.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Athiests are hopeless people - feel sorry for them

      Why don't we release your lack of intelligence.... ?

      Modern Science as we know today comes from the west, and the scientific method in the west, was established by Benedictine Catholic Monks through the universities that they set up that educated Europe and took it out of the dark ages. So if you think that science grew out of logic and reason, tell that to the Barbarians, the Goths, the Vandals and all the other idiots that roamed the expanse of Europe prior to Christianity.

      Yea, don't bring up Rome and Greece, those civilizations were long dead before Christianity rose in the Europe. It was the Monks who preserved the books and meticulously reproduced Hellenic and Latin works and expanded on it and took it to the level that made all the advances possible.

      PS: Don't go Gallileo on me, Rome didn't have a problem with what Galileo said (Refer you to Copernicus who said pretty much the same thing 100 yrs ago and was considered a treasure of the Polish Church)... but with how Galieo went about it, as he tried to bypass the scientific method.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @ Atheist hater: When did you get your head stuck up your @ SS? Been rewriting history long?

      September 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Athiests are hopeless people - feel sorry for them

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_were_monks_and_monasteries_important_in_the_Middle_Ages

      so there!

      September 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Athiests are hopeless people - feel sorry for them

      And there!

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02443a.htm

      What are your references, Ignoramus?

      September 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @atheists etc,

      OK, I won't go Galileo on you. I'll go Giordano Bruno on you.

      They burnt him at the stake for advancing the notion that the sun was a star – like all the others, and extrapolating that to the idea that there might be other planets that sustain life.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Wholly Goats

      Someone who doesn't know how to spell 'atheist', calling someone else an ignoramus - comedy gold!

      September 5, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      Wrong Athi.

      Impericism comes from Aristotle and he was Greek. He stated what we know as the scientific method.

      the inductive experimental method is Arabic in origin. Ibn al Haythan.

      Christianity in the middle ages perserved some knowledge, destroyed some knowledge. It also slowed down both discovery and adoption of information from such discoveries.

      We know that Islam's religious 'rennaisance' in the 12-13th centuries turned back the clock on science for them. If not for that, who knows?

      September 5, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  12. Adam C

    @Hindu, Okay, here is a better analogy for you.

    Most people eat meat of some kind. Some are beef eaters. Some are chicken eaters.

    Then someone along the line decided that being a vegetarian was a healthy option, and then suddenly there were more and more vegetarians.

    Imagine someone asked, "What type of meat eater are you", and you answered "none, I'm a vegetarian."

    Now replace "meat eater" with "religion" and "vegetarian" with "atheist".

    A vegetarian is not a type of meat eater – they don't eat meat. An atheist is not a religion – they don't believe in god(s).

    September 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Chew em if you got em

      Nice! And very well said! More, please!

      September 5, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      but they still eat

      September 5, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  13. Athiests are hopeless people - feel sorry for them

    If people get offended by crosses, and the Govt decides that people should not wear them, then where does it stop ? Red Cross symbol ? Pharmacy Symbol ? The Unon Jack and a ton of other European flags ? the Crosses that stand atop the World Heritage Churches, Cathedrals, Hospitals and Universities ? (All of which trace their origins to the cross and Christianity in Europe ). These folks who don't acknowledge the contritbution of Christianity in making Europe the pre-eminent continent for the better half of the last 2000 yrs are also responsible for taking Europe in the path of making it the future dump of the planet, on account of their determination to wipe Christianity from Europe.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Think-About-It

      AAHP, well said! Every nation that has rejected God after being enlightened by knowledge of Him has brought curse on itself and has provoked God's judgment. History does not lie! But people are willing to lie to themselves, because it's easier to run from truth then face it....for now!

      September 4, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, please. You morons have been predicting the end of civilization and/or the downfall of the US for ages.

      Knock if off.

      There isn't an ounce of truth in your blabber. There are a number of secular nations that are thriving and whose people are happy and successful. And there are a slew of theocracies that are nothing but dung-heaps.

      September 4, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • mike

      It's never god who punishes a nation, it's always an army of christians claiming to be working god's will. christianity is an evil, psychopathic mental disease, don't let it pass on to the next generation.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Think-About-It

      You fools! If it were not for Christianity, humanity would have become already instinct, by turning to cannibalism. Don't give me that garbage, harping on how far have we advanced! Man can conquer the whole vast universe, but will never conquer and get rid of depravity that's in him, apart from God.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      C'mon. Christianity, as Tom Tom has alluded, is at it's heart an Apocalyptic cult. EVERY generation states the 'real soon now' 2nd coming of Christ and the end of the world, back to the very first generations of the religion. 1800 years..... now.

      It's easy, now, to see this, due to how the internet allows us to see images/photographs and transcripts of earlier generations milennialist sects. Real Soon Now. Go google.

      Yeah.... Right.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Think-About-It

      You don't know anything about real Christianity, nor do you understand it. Because you don't know God of Christianity.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  14. Peter

    If I told my boss that I wasn't going to do my job, I would not expect to have that job for much longer. I could also see my boss having a problem with me being unwilling to serve certain customers.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  15. Rob

    Do they really want to take this on? Do they realize how many followers of religions other than Christianity want to push their practices and symbolism into the work place? They are simply opening the door. Solution, leave all religion out of the workplace. Period.

    September 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Adam C

      Yes, and I suspect this is one of the reasons why Christians try to paint non-believers as a religion. Their logic would go something like "If you ban all religious symbols, you're favoring atheism over a religion – that's discrimination!"

      September 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  16. The DeMBA

    These do seem to be fairly weak cases.

    There may be no case history of injuries from crucifixes, but there may be from jewelery or other dangling things – I don't want the nurse leaning over me when I'm in the emergency room having anything dangling and bouncing around.

    As for the therapist and especially the registrar, I have little sympathy. If I'm a religious vegetarian, I shouldn't expect to keep my job at McDonalds when I refuse to serve anyone who orders meat.

    The stewardess might have a case – if jewelry is allowed, a cross necklace that otherwise comports with the company policy on jewelry doesn't seem like it should be cause for concern. If she were pushing her religion on customers who just want a ride in a plane that would be different, but it doesn't sounds like that was the case. The airline has changed their policy, which sounds reasonable, and never fired her; perhaps a reasonable accommodation would be allowing her to get back on the track she was on and giving her compensation for the salary differential if any.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Jake

      DeMBA, Why shouldn't it be ok for the airline to have a policy that employees can't wear religious symbols or garb at work? If it bothers or offends passengers, which a cross surely does for many, isn't it ok to disallow it? Generally, shouldn't we be able to say that it's ok to believe whatever you want, but you can't display or practice your personal beliefs at the work place if they offend other workers or customers? Religious freedom shouldn't be a valid excuse to get special treatment. If I were a racist and wore a racist necklace, I wouldn't expect that to be allowed by my employer, unless I worked for the KKK.

      September 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  17. MashaSobaka

    Oh, give me a break. This is all they can come up with? You refuse to do your job, you lose it. You refuse to remove something that can pose a danger to others, you lose your job. And, in the end, your fellow citizens' right not to be subject to discrimination comes before your nonexistent "right" to require others to abide by your dogma. End of story. If you don't like it, feel free to move to a theocracy. I'm sure Iran will be delighted to have you.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  18. joefromeurope

    in case one. if the employer demands from his employees not to wear any religious symbols it`s the employer right to do so.
    in case 2, gay civil unions are accepted under british law, so go and troll on the interet and not in a registration office.
    in case 3, what was that man`s job?

    September 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      BA is a semi state company and the NHS is the public healthcare provider. They follow different rules than standard private companies. Them discriminating against their employees religious rights just looks bad, as the British State has frequently supported Islamic workers wearing hijabs. Also, I'm not sure if the counsellor is a private counsellor, but if he is he should be under no compulsion to counsel anybody. The registrar should be legally compelled to register gay civil partnerships though.

      September 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  19. Hindu

    @sn0wb0arder - by definition God means Supreme Being - one without equal or superior. So by definition, there cannot be many "gods". God means One.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • ddpp

      Church = 6 words
      Temple = 6 words
      Mosque = 6 words

      Bible = 5 words
      Geeta = 5 words
      Quran = 5 words

      6-5 = 1 ======> God is ONE.

      September 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      oh is that why god only understands english

      September 5, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Huh?

      ddpp,

      Do you know what a 'word' is?

      September 5, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @ddpp

      Church = 1 word
      Temple = 1 word
      Mosque = 1 word

      Bible = 1 word
      Geeta = 1 word
      Quran = 1 word

      1 – 1 = 0 ... and that's all you've got here!

      September 5, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • ddpp

      okay you win Huh, I meant to say letters, hey if our Biden can make mistakes why can't I? Are you discriminating me?

      September 5, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Even with 'letters' subst'tuted for words, it's still meaningless wordplay.

      September 5, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 4, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Jake

      Are you a computer or is this a message from god? Just wondering.

      September 4, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • hal 9000

      I'm sorry "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but you assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Rob

      So which religion is the true on that you would like to force everybody to practice?

      September 4, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • John

      @Jake..this is an actual person who is 47 years old and lives in his parent's basement. He also goes by the name of "Just sayin" and you will notice him reply to this same comment if he baits enough newbies into his trap. He's obviously a sick individul who is so drunk on the cult of Christianity that he has brain damage. A really sad case. The best course of action is to simply ignore this comment that he posts on every page of every blog.

      September 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.