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. Lee Oates

    The religious nuts are coming out of hiding again. Here's to the day that the human species evolves past religion and quits believing in fairy tales.

    September 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Nope!

      "The religious nuts are coming out of hiding again"
      Ha,Ha! I hought the same about you roaches who come here infesting the Belief blog spreading your pathetic crap!
      And you think you're significant ! LOL!

      September 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  2. tuvia



    The Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.
    the Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob


    September 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • old ben

      This is bull sh it. Also this Jonathan Pollard is a highly unstable traitor. Keep him where he is.

      September 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Lee Oates

      A complete nut.

      September 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  3. RPE

    Ok, they won't let them wear a cross. Is anyone walking around that office with any other religious icon on display? If not, there's no discrimination here, just a level playing field. As for the other two, they refused to do their job and got fired for it. Welcome to the work force. The moment you can pass laws based on your religion, is the moment everyone else can do the same.

    September 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  4. tuvia




    September 6, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • old been

      more religious retardation

      September 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  5. tuvia


    September 6, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • old ben

      more religious retardation – sad use of video as a medium

      September 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  6. Atheist Hunter

    Satan and ALL his followers are afraid of the cross, that's why they seek to destroy and hide it. FEAR or what will destroy him! Be afraid, be very afraid!!!

    September 6, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Down south

      Hmmm! always thought that burning a cross on a black families lawn or burning down a black church was a christian thing to do, back in the day.

      September 6, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Down south..........yeah and it's obvious something is wrong with your thinker!

      September 6, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • sam stone

      Yep, nothing more scary than a piece of wood

      September 6, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Nope!

      Be terified, run for your miserable life, you patheic human worm! When time comes and you face God, you'll find out that you never knew what real fear was till then!

      September 7, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  7. Religion is not healthy for children and all living things

    As clerics stuff burnt q'urans into little christian girls purses, so do priests stuff their erections into little boys bums.
    Religion kills.... seek help.

    September 6, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  8. 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 6, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Believing in an invisible all-powerful god who never does anything makes baby jesus cry. So many gods, so little time.

      September 6, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Per*vert alert

      When jesus was 12 years old he begn hanging around the temple and hitting on the rabbis, forcing them to have s*ex with him, the power of christ compelled them. This tradition was later picked up by young altar boys that seduced and ra*ped adult priests, so the story goes. Religion su*cks.

      September 6, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Per*vert alert...good luck with that idiotic blasphemy thing you think you have going for you. Let us all know how that works out for you in the end. Wouldn't want to stand in your shoes during the Judgment.

      September 6, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      your right, the cross is not intrinsically holy, if jesus had appeared and died in 19th century france the symbol would be a guillotine not a cross, and if it had been mid 20th century USA the christian symbol would be an electric chair.

      September 6, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  9. Athiests are hopeless people - feel sorry for them

    Christopher Hitchens is dead.

    September 6, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • SDY225

      At least we are sure that he was alive at some point.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  10. Achmed The Dead Terrorist


    September 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  11. tuvia





    September 5, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      JONATHAN POLLARD should remain a guest of the United States. What he stole:

      "The information that Jonathan provided to Israel included Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan and Syrian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities – all being developed for use against Israel. He also provided information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on up-coming terrorist attacks planned against Israeli civilian targets. "

      Israel felt entitled to this information, but was not entitled to steal it. Spies and thieves should be punished regardless of whether they were sent by a friend or sent by an enemy. Keeping Pollard in permanent custody will send a message to our friends and especially to our enemies that we will not tolerate spies and thieves.

      It's hard to know what Pollard stole and who he passed it to. He's a favorite son of Israel now, but Israel may not have been his only client. Something worth reading from Wikipedia (see the associated references):

      Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigator Ronald olive has alleged that Pollard passed classified information to South africa,[21] and attempted, through a third party, to sell classified information to Pakistan on multiple occasions.[22] Pollard also stole classified documents related to China on behalf of his wife, who used the information to advance her personal business interests and kept them around the house, where they were discovered by investigating authorities when Pollard's espionage activity came to light.[23][24][25]

      See the references at

      September 5, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • bluvia tuvia

      stevia tastes nasty

      September 6, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      May the Lord God of Israel who is the God of all Creation protect His people Israel
      May He send His Angels with flaming swords to fight their battles, protect their land and inhabitants thereof.... may their enemies be scattered and confused, and heir weapons turned on each other instead.
      May He bless all those who bless Israel , and may the hate of those who hate her fester in them into a sore that will be their own demise....

      May His people Israel know that they are not forsaken, and know the presence of God's strong hand always with them. May they be strengthened and encouraged knowing that they are not forsaken any longer...
      May their hearts become humble before Him and so tender, that they will hear His voice softly speaking to them, recognizing that it is He who is calling them, and restoring life again unto them.
      O, may they not shrink back and shut Him out as He shows them the prophecies of old, as His Spirit bears witness of the One whom they refused to look at for so long!
      May the name of Yeshua, the humble Servant of whom Isaiah wrote in chapter 42 and 53 of his book, penetrate deep into their hearts and may the veil that kept them from seeing Him be lifted and the light of God shines in, revealing His truth unto them. Oh, may His people Israel mourn for not seeing Him before, but rejoice for Father's love who restores life into them and calls them again to look at Yeshua, and not run from His tender voice. He will not scorn, He will not rebuke, but He will gather and heal , making all things NEW!

      This is the Heart of God for His people Israel, and He will move heaven and earth, (LITERALY, MOVE) to bring it to pass.....

      Oh, the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out... He has hidden them from those who are wise in their own eyes, but revealed them to the humble, and those of broken and con/trite hearts...
      This is the wisdom of our God!

      September 6, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • sam stone

      Gosh, Prissy, isn't that special?

      September 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 5, 2012 at 8:01 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 6, 2012 at 1:18 am |
  13. Bill Deacon

    A fake but what I wish he would say....

    I am a religious person that knows that the individual has rights that are in line with my religious beliefs and the state has no right to trespass on those rights, this includes the right of the religious to discriminate against anyone that does not believe as we do, sure, if they are not to far off the mark, we will throw them a bone. I encourage all christian types to hold your nose and vote for a morman even though they have a pant full in their magic underwear.

    Logic for the sheepies, from mitch, no worship required.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      This could be me except the grammar is atrocious and the thinking is exceptionally juvenile.

      September 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  14. Mitch

    Many religions tell their sheepies what to do, what to think and not question the authority of the church. The christians have got their act together far better than most, but still have some very radical cults The radicals of some of the others are just down right crazy, but I know you will tell me that religion is just swell, because you have been educated to that point of view. You justify the obscene history by what exactly; because now you stand up for the individual rights of mankind if and only if they believe in your dogma? The Irish are acting up again, christian love and tolerance at its finest. not a joke.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Point x point:
      1. Nowhere does Catholic doctrine prevent questioning authority. In fact, the primacy of conscience is the paramount statement of the church.
      2."christians" are not a monolithic group. Any large system will necessarily have rogue or extreme elements. You paint with too broad a brush and it exposes your bias. Name a group that does have cohesive behavior if you can.
      3. No one, especially the Church defends negative aspects of religion in history. Those should be measured against the positive impact as well though in order to get a complete picture. A separate debate engages whether religion has been positive over time but that is not what this argument is about. The fact is that even if it were entirely negative, the right to participate by free association still exists.
      4. The sanctiity of individuals is not dependent on adherence to dogma. This is not taught in the Catholic Church. All humans have value.

      Tired of eating straw yet?

      September 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  15. Mitch

    @ Bill, the cowardly, Deacon
    "Sorry to smack you down but you asked for it."
    Not at all, not at all, keep trying. "the rights of the individual to trump the state" but you (the royal YOU) want to control how a woman controls her body, you want to control what is taught in schools, you want to influence politics despite the seperation of church and state, many of you discriminate against divorced people, , you want to stop LGBT people having legal married status, etc. but you do not want the rights of the individual to trump the laws of your dogma, HYPOCRiITE.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Once again mitch you are arguing with things I have not said since you cannot argue with the things I do say. It's a nice tactic and incites all those with your same prejudices but it doesn't further the dialogue. Stealing my name and posting your suppositions in overly dramatic tones is an infantile touch as well. I think most people here agree that is the point you need to withdraw from the debate.

      September 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  16. Mitch

    Again the tunnel vision of someone that sees only in what his beliefs and dogma allows, Many different religions and beliefs in this world, if you can only see through a glass darkly, you may as well be blind. If I believe in Rastan and the only way I am able to commune with my God is by snorting cocaine or injecting heroin that is my individual right and hurts no one but me, who cares about the law; why is your nonsense any different from that. The spacecraft might be coming to save you. People have died believing in that too.

    September 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      But the fallacy is that snorting cocaine hurts only you. Try to grow up and think a little more deeply. Better yet read some literature on the rights of man or the corruption of the state.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Mitch

      @Bill "the cowardly" Deacon
      There is far more literature on the corruption of the religions, try and catch up.
      Shhh! The vatican has just received a report on financial transparency but it is secret,
      Are you making your daily bread by hustling the sheepies?

      September 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  17. Gordon

    I love the standard christian argument. "My ability to discriminate against you because I'm religious trumps your right to be free from discrimination."

    September 5, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Mitch

      People like Bill Deacon, been there done that , but my beliefs will see me in heaven for etetnity, the other 5 or 6 billion that are not like me well just rot. If you read this Bill your narrow view is really quite pathetic.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Well again Mitch you are arguing with things that I have not said. Gordon seems to be arguing with someone he argued with in the past.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • SDY225

      The promise of heaven again shows what "christianity" is all about: selfishness.

      Delusional selfishness that's easily abused by people who enjoy manipulating others, but selfishness nonetheless.

      Do what is good because it is good. If you are rewarded for it, so be it, and if no good deed goes unpunished, so be it.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      SDY225 you are free to condemn what you suppose motivates others (which you cannot truly know) and construct your own ethos. But the argument in these cases is not whether the individual creeds are viable but is it the right of those who adopt them to pursue their faith in the face of opposition from those who are "offended".

      To be clear, the safety issues around jewelry I get. The policies of government agencies, I get. But many use that as a starting point to advance and promote the removal of religion from the public discourse and IT AIN"T GONNA HAPPEN

      September 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  18. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:--–>>>>

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

    • 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.

    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 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Athiests are hopeless people - feel sorry for them

      You are clearly ignorant about Chritianity.... it does not rest on Abraham or Easter... It rests on the believe there there's a God, who created us, out of love and desires a relationship with us that is based on love, and made the extreme act of love for us by his death on the cross.

      So there!

      September 6, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      You are truly ignorant about spelling. Maybe you should pray a little harder to your non-existant god, and he'll bless you with intelligence. Sorry, thats not true... god likes 'em stupid, obviously.

      September 6, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • WASP

      @feel sorry for them: prove god's love; better yet prove love.

      love is a concept for an emotion humans feel, emotions are merely chemical reactions in the body and the physical responces due to them.

      god is also a concept, he always agrees with the follower, always forgives trangressions, always promises yet never antes up, the idea of being protected and not alone bring comfort to people thus they "know" god exsists due to their emotions which are just chemical reactions in the body.

      September 6, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • Reality

      (from Professor JD Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts)

      "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

      "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

      "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

      September 6, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  19. Mitch

    Sep 4/2012 @ 5:47PM Page 11, Bill Deacon maintains his personal ethos is above the law, dangerous person!!!

    September 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  20. Mitch

    To the zealots of religions, Bill Deacon stated On this board Sept 5/2012.
    It is simply a matter of government dicating that your personal ethos is subordinate to the state. Hope you like it.

    If you read that statement carefully you see the arrogance of the religious, MY beliefs in My religion are more important than the laws of the state I live in. If I and my religion agrees with the law, fine, if not we reserve the right to disregard the law. Think about the implications of what a religious group would be able to get away with using that dogma. Too many examples to list how ridiculous and dangerous the premise is, Waco, Texas is just one.

    September 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Mitch, you're probably trying to pick a fight where one doesn't exist as well as employing the old trick of converting your opponent's argument into a variation of his statement and then arguing against that. I think they call it a straw man. I never said that if my personal convictions conflicted with the law that the law should be disregarded.

      My argument goes against the concept that one must accept the law as correct simply because it is the law. You seem to propose that the rule of the state is sufficient to overturn the rights of individuals. I advance the argument that the rights of individuals trump the state, as long as there is no harm to others. Of the two philosophies, yours has historically proven the most repressive while mine points the way to liberty.

      In these cases the question comes down to whether or not the choices of the plaintiff's are detrimental to others. My opinion is that they probably are not.

      Sorry to smack you down but you asked for it.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      And yes, if a zealot is someone who refuses to allow the state to repress my personal religious convictions then I am a zealot.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Mitch

      Well that is a much better answer than the one given yesterday, I don't think by you, but someone that may have used your handle. The problem that the religious run into is that some believe that there clerical law and punishment system may over ride the law and "justice" of the state and society. The most recent being the protecting of pedophile priests by the Vatican; you know that these criminals should have been turned into the legal authorities every where in the world the crimes were commited, rather than protected, don't you. The state, in a democracy, makes law to benefit all the people of all religions without preference, if you fall outside of a law, lets say poligamy, the state has a right to stop that behaviour, Do no harm allows you people to what not pay their fair taxes, it does little harm to others but make up the portion you should pay, no?

      September 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Mitch

      What straw man, please explain the difference between "simply a matter of government that your personal ethos is subordinate to the state." and not obeying a law that is contrary to your personal ethos. It seems to me that the state has bended over backwards to accomadate personal beliefs, conscientious objectors as an example.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The straw man you set up is you leaped from my statement to the conclusion that I propose disregarding duly enacted laws. I accept your apology.

      Also, the state should bend over backwards to accomodate individuals whenever there is no harm. Not paying taxes, using drugs and prostiitution are not examples by the way. That is the essence of individual liberty. That is not to say that laws should be disregarded because they are disagreeable. It is to say however that the powers of the state proceed from free men, not the other way around. We call it America and to have it any other way opens the door to one of two extremes. The dreaded theocracy you live in fear of, or the more likely event by present circeumstances, a police state of "political correctness"

      September 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
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About this blog

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.