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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. Charmin'

    why does religion always trigger a harsh response? lol

    September 4, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • De Odorizer

      why? because those "faithful" people act like anything but christians. They are vicious, narrow minded and want to impose their views on society as a whole. Over Our Dead Bodies, I say in reply. If those christian / muslim/ jewish/ hindu/ taliban fundamentalists had the decency to let people live their lives they wouldn't have to face harsh criticisms. As it is, they will get more than an earful from US until they stop bothering people with different belief systems. Amen.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • JDA

      That's pretty much what I've seen from religious people too. Hateful, bigoted, judgmental, harassing, hypocritical....the list of negative adjectives could go on and on. The number of people that I would consider true Christians in my life I could count on one hand...and still have fingers left.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      @De Odorizer and JDA: What are you two babbling about? Turn off the TV, step away from the computer, and go out and meet more real Christians. You'll be surprised that most are actually able to peacefully co-exist with you. It is clear you are conditioned by the anti-Christian mainstream media.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'It is clear you are conditioned by the anti-Christian mainstream media."

      you mean the anti-christian mainstream media that reports on religions attempts to pass anti-gay marriage bills?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • AJD13

      And the Christian media is so much better....like Pat Robertson telling the Haitians that they brought the earthquake on themselves because they're devil worshipers.

      Um...I went to church for many years, I have attended a few different churches...saw exactly the things I'm talking about IN PERSON...the last church I went to I stopped going when the parishioners were flinging hate speech all over the chapel against gays and had an old man in tears because his adopted son had committed suicide a few years before due to the harassment and bullying he received from supposed "christians" for being gay.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Neil

      Morally righteous is a problem for the unrighteous.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And trolling is a problem for you, Mary/Neil.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  2. De Odorizer

    "...a woman who declined to register gay civil partnerships "... Simple: if the state recognizes gay civil partnerships and the 'woman ' refused to do her job, Fire Her, fire her. Who is she to decide what's legal and what's not in society as a whole. If she has issues with gay partnerships she should work in a job where she doesn't get in contact with the issue, That is her right, her freedom. It is NOT her right to refuse to process a legal act.
    What's next? A nurse refusing care to Aids patients because she thinks it's god's punishment? A doctor refusing emergency surgery that might result in the loss of a fetus, but would save the mother? A judge granting rights to a plaintiff because she's a lesbian and the judge disapproves of it? Think back for a moment: judges used to refuse civil rights to blacks or slaves... Thank goodness, we are past that, or perhaps not?
    Those religious critters who come out of the woodwork refuse others their legal rights but then have the brainless gall to complain about persecution?

    September 4, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • De Odorizer

      ..*a judge NOT granting rights to a plaintiff because he disapproves of her as a lesbian... (sorry)

      September 4, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  3. prophet

    the vatican is under investigation now for money laundering and this is fact so this should make many of you sense some justice soon. About time i say.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Your silly words truly show you to be a lost soul who needs the truth of Jesus. Ready?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Andrew

      Put your bible back on the shelf and get out an 'english for dummies' book, you need that more. Seems like the bible's turned you into a degenrate (or a troll)...

      September 4, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  4. Ijustwanttruth

    What we should all have in common is complete faith in the wisdom of Freedom of Religion. All of the rights listed in the Bill of Rights together prevent the Majority from wreaking havoc on the lives of the Minority as is played out all over the globe in systems which lack such basic guarantees. These rights protect atheists as much as they do christians or muslims or any other religion.

    We need to come together and disallow mob rule because although you may be in teh majority on a religious view you have, you may be in the minority on some other matter.

    We have a great system. Understand it. Voice your support for it when matters such as this arise. Sure, debate and defend your own views vigorously. But stand up for the wisdom of the system that makes that possible.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  5. Shakingmyhead

    Yes, it is worldwide...they hate the name of Jesus. Also like bratty children they dont want to be "told what to do" with the life He gave them. I am glad there is hope for these folks. At least Christians, as a rule, are not out to kill others who do not side with them unlike some other religions and pagan beliefs (some not all).

    September 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Christians are the ones most likely to scream foul over someone not agreeing with them!! Pagans are usually fun loving and nothing is ever done in the name of disbelief!! You might wish to read a little on the Crusades, the Salem With Trials, The Scopes Monkey Trial, the funny-as-hell Noahs Ark story, the Inquisition, WW2...all a result of a stupid belief in your imaginary friend.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Yes, it is worldwide...they hate the name of Jesus.

      Where in this article do you find hate for the name of Jesus? I find four people using the court system to try to get something they don't deserve.

      Also like bratty children they dont want to be "told what to do" with the life He gave them. I am glad there is hope for these folks.

      Also, the only "bratty" behavior I see here is on the part of these four people who broke the rules, got fired and now want the courts to avenge them.

      At least Christians, as a rule, are not out to kill others who do not side with them unlike some other religions and pagan beliefs (some not all).

      Christianity has a very bloody past that includes forcing conversion on threat of death.

      What Pagan religions kill those that don't agree with them? Or are you referring to the past? You can not compare Christianity today to Paganism of the past. If we're going to compare, lets at least do it fairly. Today's Pagans to today's Christians.

      I think if you were to poll a group of both sets, you would find that Christians are the more likely to be blood thirsty and demanding that all believe as they do.

      Of course, to be fair, I am slightly biased, being Pagan myself.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      **Salem Witch**

      September 4, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • JDA

      Wow...what hogwash. I don't "hate" Jesus...never met the man and don't think I ever will as I don't believe he exists. Hard to hate something that doesn't exist. He may have once, but he's dead now. What I do hate is the things that people say and do because of their religion based on their belief in him.

      As far as kids go, I'm an agnostic and I have taught my children about many different belief systems in the world in a factual way, my children have attended different types of churches, and they have come to the same mindset I have of agnosticism. My children win citizenship awards at school, get good grades, and are complimented pretty much everywhere we go on how well they behave, how polite and respectful and kind they are. Even people who don't generally "like" kids have told me they have no problems with mine and enjoy their company.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Silly people. Christians believe in the freedom to choose to do good or evil. Jesus said that, before you is the way to life and the way to death. Choose life, and choose it more abundantly. Nonetheless, whether you believe or not, everyone will get a chance to meet Jesus: some will be smiling, while the others will be frowning. Until then, God loves you, and so I love you.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • AJD13

      So God gives people "free will" supposedly.....but he also has a "plan." The two cannot coexist. If God is God and has a plan then that would mean that certain things would have to take place in order for that plan to be guaranteed to come to fruition which would mean there could not be free will or that plan could get screwed up. George Carlin had a great bit about that.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Neil

      TruthPrevail's, if what you wrote were true, you wouldn't have written it. You're the hypocrite.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  6. prophet

    someone just commented on reading the Bible, but which bible do you read as so many have been mistranslated, so Whilst The Bible in its original Writing is correct, there is only one translation of it thats corect and not many will have this because the religions don't want them to have the corect version.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oooh. A conspiracy theorist! My day is made!

      September 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Pheadrus

      Sounds like someone needs to read Matthew 6:1 – 6:8. That would be you, Prophet...

      September 4, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      You have ranted much and it is clear your confused and twisted soul is crying out for the Lord. Why don't you just leave these other average people alone and let me pray for you. The Bible is quite fine. Stop listening to the words of anti-Christian historians who have been trying and trying to manufacture "facts" to discredit the Bible. The Lord knows what He is doing, and He loves you. Time to stop your foolishness and get to know Him before it is too late.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • AJD13

      The bible does a very fine job of discrediting itself.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Neil

      King James version is reliable. The international version etc. were tampered with.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  7. TonyInNYC

    So the woman who declined to register gay civil partnerships got dismissed for not doing her job. I don't see a problem; her religious beliefs are intact. What is a problem is a government bureaucrat trying to use her position to impose her religion on citizens regarding a legal - not religious - matter (registering a civil partnership).

    September 4, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  8. bluesy

    not being allowed to wear a cross to work is religious discrimination. refusing to provide services that your company agrees to provide is a sackable offense. you must do your job. you can't choose to do things differently then you agreed to do when you signed up and then sue your employer because you aren't doing your job.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Actually, if the standing dress code says no visible jewelry, it is not discrimination to enforce that code, including for religious symbols. And, if the necklace presents a safety concern (and for a nurse, this is a reasonable concern), then it isn't discrimination either. I work in manufacturing where no jewelry is allowed for safety reasons.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • AJD13

      Not being allowed to wear religious jewelry is not discrimination if the employer's policy is that no one is allowed to wear jewelry of any type due to occupational hazards. Now if there are other employees at the hospital that are wearing non-religious jewelry and nothing is said to them, then she has a case, but if no one is allowed to wear jewelry of any kind, it is not in any form religious discrimination. My daughter is not allowed to wear jewelry in her gym class at school because of the risk of injury.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • BRC

      To be fair she could have worn the cross, they just required that she wear it under her shirt (in th eairline case). No discrimination there.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • ol cranky

      actually, if nobody is allowed to wear a necklace due to potential safety concerns, it's not religious discrimination for the nurses to be told they can not wear a cross or crucifix around their necks.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Timmy

      If she is that worried about always wearing a cross, she should just get a giant tattoo on her chest.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  9. prophet

    Should read

    God did not say this against christians as there is no mention of chsrtians is The Bible and this is a fact, but He will be against those who harm those who Believe in Our Salvation that came from His Son.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Neil

      If you think about it, atheists who refuse to believe harm themselves first. Then it snowballs to others.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  10. Lawess4U

    These people's rights weren't violated. They have the right to practice their religion on their own time. When you are on the clock you do what is required of the job................sadlt, they close not to.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • bluesy

      agreed

      September 4, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Amanda

      Yes but would you side with Muslim women if they were told to remove their veils?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Amanda: If part of the uniform means they do not wear their head gear, then they either deal with it or find another place of employment...quite simple!

      September 4, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Neil

      I was hospitalized and found myself comforted when seeing the cross around a doctor's, nurse's, or other health professional's neck.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I suspect you were in a very 'special' hospital, Neil. Was it for a s3x change operation or for delusional behavior that endangered others?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • @Neil

      @Neil:
      You were "comforted" because they shared similar views. If the healthcare professionals were wearing some recognized symbol that was different from your own beliefs, the opposite effect would have likely taken place. Had you been tended to by a Muslim woman with a head covering, you would have likely been offended or uncomfortable. So, it stands to reason that no signifying symbols or garments should be worn in these cases. Not only are they a LEGITIMATE hazard for this profession and others, they can produce negative effects or offend someone of differing faith. Once again, your response is a bit ignorant (read "uninformed and one-sided), as many of your comments have been thus far.

      I was raised Southern Baptist, and though I greatly disagree with many views of the "Church," I still take my faith seriously as a part of who I am. That being said, I realize that someone of a differing faith may feel the same way. Actively attempting to force their mindset to match my own would be horribly unethical and only spark anger on both sides. This attempt of force is the reason for a large majority of violence and war in the world, past and present–Christianity being responsible for much of it as well.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  11. MarkinFL

    Two cases are claiming discrimination against their right to discriminate. Simply hogwash. One case was a dress code that included ANY necklace. Only one seems legitimate and the company changed their rules long ago.

    Nothing serious here except the first two and the civil servant has no leg to stand on. Maybe the s.ex therapist, but then he/she would hardly be capable of helping same se.x couples when he has a personal hang up on same .relationships.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Neil

      What?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  12. prophet

    we are praying for all of you, the misled and ignorant and this icludes christians as well as they have been told many things that are incorrect.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How will you know your prayers worked?

      September 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Andrew

      And how are you certain that what you know is correct and everyone else is wrong? Sounds more like a false prophet to me...

      September 4, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  13. Dl

    yadda yadda yadda... my religion = good, yours = bad

    September 4, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  14. TommyTT

    Ah yes, your right to discriminate. That should be filed alongside your right to keep "those people" from moving into your neighborhood.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Neil

      I thank God every day that I don't have atheist neighbors.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  15. unegen

    All I hear when reading this is WAAAAAAAAAAHHH...... Waah, waah, poor me, I don't want to do my job and got fired and it's noooot faaaaaaiirr.....

    September 4, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  16. JD

    It seems in this case the shoe is on the other foot. Can you imagine discriminating someone for what they believe or what they wear? I hope these Christians learn their lesson here as they cast the first stone.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Neil

      Ahaaaaaaaaaaaa, so you admit it's discrimination.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  17. SurelyUjest

    I think religion get's in the way of human developement. Given the right to believe what you want to believe does not include an outward expression or symbol of that belief. In the case that you may cause injury or damage equipment due to a holy symbol being worn, makes the case even more justifyable that NO religion should have the right to push their beleifs throught public adornment. I am not an Athiest I believe whats in my heart is MINE and NO One elses, it is a unique relationship with my creator (s) therefore I do not require any "back up" or reinforcement.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Define "religion"?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Neil

      You atheists push your religion at everyone. It's disguised as political correctness.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  18. prophet

    God did not say this against christians as there is no mention of chsrtians is The Bible and this is a fact, but He will be against those who Believe in Our Salvation that came from His Son.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Are you Jewish?

      September 4, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Andrew

      No, just a troll hiding behind religion

      September 4, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Neil

      I do believe we have an imposter pretending to be the Christian that goes by prophet.

      Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

      1 Peter 4:16 Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  19. prophet

    someone just commented on reading the Bible, but which bible do you read as so mnay have mistranslated, so Whilst The Bible in its original Writing is correct, there is only one translation of it thats corect and not many will have this becaus ethe religiosn don't want them to have the corect version.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Quite correct.
      Unless you can read ancient hebrew and greek and have a copy of the pre-Nicean Bible, you're not reading The Truth.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • TommyTT

      Careful with your pseudo-history. Various books of the Bible existed as oral tradition for generations before being written down. Nobody has one single authoritative "real" version.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Andrew

      Ok, who wrote it?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Doc Vestibule: What is truth? The Lord knows what He is doing. He has left man with His Word and the wtiness of the life of Jesus Christ. The truth is there. Stop believing the nonsense of anti-Christian historians who love to cast doubts in order to advance their dark agenda.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Neil

      Only the deceived Jews believe in the oral traditions of the Pharisees of their fake religion judaism.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  20. phillip meacham

    fear not ,God is still in control,he says that there is a special place in hell for these people who dont believe and who works against christians and jews.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Mmmmm.... schadenfreudetastic!

      September 4, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Pheadrus

      Er... special place in hell? What does that mean? A little more fire? A little more brimstone? Seems to me that those who work against religion would at least get air-conditioning and cold beer in hell. I mean... consider who runs the place...

      September 4, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Jake

      Shut up.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Andrew

      There's also a special place in hell for those who exploit religion for their own gain and those who judge or claim to be speaking on behalf of god as if they know what god is thinking...

      September 4, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'God is still in control,he says that there is a special place in hell for these people who dont believe and who works against christians and jews"

      in his love and mercy....right?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Neil

      Sounds like someone is stealing a line from "On Golden Pond"?

      September 4, 2012 at 12:08 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.