home
RSS
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. joyouswind

    "...no previous cases of injury from crucifixes."

    Jesus?

    (Okay, I know what she meant, but still. I had to say it.)

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

      Lol well player, sir, well played.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Hindu

      Jesus' injuries were not due to crucifix itself but from being nailed to the cross. Plus we are talking of a smaller replica symbol of the cross here.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  2. Viltor

    This is absurd. The fact of the matter is, all these complaints are essentially the people's, personal views and not dictated by religion. I would bet that all the great majority of people who provide the services to gays are also christian so the fact they choose not to is their personal one and should not be tolerated.

    The cross wearers have "in your face cross wearers to blame and not the state.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  3. s

    idk what rules and regulations regarding dress code are in the UK, but here, i believe it's still no necklaces for most medical ppl, isn't it? it seems a bit facetious to say that there are no recorded instances of injury from a crucifix, specifically, without saying whether there have been issues with necklaces in general. if a doctor can lose his watch inside a patient, is it that farfetched to think it possible that a broken chain could lead to WHATEVER was on it to fall into a place it shouldn't be? it's ironic that ppl who openly discriminate against others because of their religious beliefs, in direct violation of established laws, now whine about being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. you can't have it both ways.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  4. TheRationale

    Oh, we're Christian, we get special rights to violate obvious safety codes and discriminate against other people. And when we're not allowed to, we say we're being discriminated again.

    It's absolutely ridiculous. I'm not surprised they lost. Of course if rational thinking worked on these people they probably wouldn't be Christians in the first place.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • TheRationale

      against*

      September 4, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Patrick Lewis

      As much as I'd like to say these people are unreasonable... and they probably are... with the exception of the registrar, all these things seem pretty reasonable.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  5. Barry G.

    The Christian church grew rapidly during the first three hundred years, which were years of persecution and suffering for the faithful. In the year 315 C.E. the Edict of Milan put an end to this persecution, and Rome went from persecuting the Christians, to protecting them and giving them preferential treatment. (viz., the conversation of the Roman Emperor, Constantine, to the Christian faith)

    Some of the early Christian leaders saw this end of persecution as a threat to the health and salvation of the Church, because its founder (Jesus Christ) taught his followers that they must follow his example, suffer, take up thier cross and even lay down their lives, as he had done.

    Many consider the year 315 C.E. and the prosperity and comfort Christains began to enjoy to be a threat to the faith and the movement, and some believe that the Church is still suffering the effects of this to this day.

    See: Justo Gonzalez' The History of the Christian Church, vol. 1.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      If the Constantinian protections hadn't been put in place, Christianity as you know it would not exist today.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Why use C.E. instead of A.D.?

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

      Because is refers to a Mytho's and deity....

      September 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  6. Yes1fan

    When you are hired by an employer, you agree to work under their terms.
    If you don't like it, at least in the U.S., you are free to pursue another job.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      unless you vote in a government that mandates birth control for you.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Dennis

      And what do you do when they change those terms? Like change from a crew neck to a v-neck which previously hid your necklace – of which there was no policy on before.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Having a job is not a right it's a responsibility .. otherwise anyone could just claim that working is against their religious beliefs and get paid to do nothing.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Civil law in civil society

      @Deacon, nobody in government forces you to use or buy birth control. But as an employer you should follow generally established health insurance regulations. That's the law of the land. If I disagree with the Obama administration in this regard it's only because I think they should have held catholic employers' feet to the fire (inquisition anybody, lol) and hold them to generally accepted terms of employer responsibilities. Just because their are catholic does not grant them special labor laws or exemptions.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Yes1fan

      They have the right to change conditions of employment.
      Crosses can be worn elsewhere anyhow. I keep one in my wallet.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  7. prophet

    God is not a religion, He is a personal experinece of Salvation and Moral living and He Sent His Son to Show us and help us and this is why anyone who is against allowing God to Help His people then they are committing sin as those who do not allow crosses to be worn by people. This is against God and is a sin and everyone has the right to be shown The Truth so they can decide what they want and so all those against this are against the very freedom that they speak about the freedom to choose what they would like.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • richunix

      Who’s version of the “Truth” are you referring to? With 5500 known version of the “Bible”, it’s kind of hard to figure out “who is who”. I mean the only surviving text from the 2nd century is a card size piece of Pyrrhus called P52 (total of 18 words). While the majority of the writing come from the 9th century and beyond. Let alone the King James version… I mean the words “verily” and “thy” DO NOT exist in Greek let alone Aramaic

      September 4, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      richunix: The Lord knows what He is doing. Ask for His Holy Spirit and you will easily find the truth in the scriptures.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • richunix

      LORD of what? Lord of the Flies, YAHWEH maybe Zeus or even AN... pick a LORD please?

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      September 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  8. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    No ones "beliefs" trump another persons rights.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Dennis

      what "rights" are being taken away from you or anyone when someone wears a cross. Isnt it more likely their right to wear a cross is being trumped by the 'enlightened' ones hatred of all things religious – which is a BELIEF.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • TheMilhous

      Is that your belief?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      It's the part where they refused to do their jobs .. the cross is meaningless.
      My belief? I believe people need to do the job they agreed to do for pay or they will be let go.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  9. MBA Matt

    Political correctness in the name of trying to keep everyone happy all the time has come full-circle.

    Will be interesting to see whether or not practicing religious beliefs (in the Western way) is actually going to be seen as legal in the UK anymore.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  10. Ben

    Christians – heirs to a tradition that, over the last two millennia, has raised discrimination and victimization to an art form – complaining that they're victims of discrimination. And people say irony is dead.

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

      Hear, hear! The irony is really pretty disturbing. I'm reminded of the words of Christopher Hitchens "Religion now comes to us in this smiley face, ingratiating way, because its had to give so much ground, and because we now know so much more. But you have no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong, and when it really did believe that it had God on its side."

      September 4, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      What are you babbling about? The Old Testament was full of traditions of men. The faith that Jesus Christ founded is beyond tradition. The world hates this because the world worships its god, Satan, whose punishment is sure and lasting.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  11. prophet

    i ask all chrsitians to turn to God and To His Son for Salvation and do your reasearch on the internet, its all there about who Our Saviour Really is and it all began 2012 years ago and His Real Name is Yeshua of Natzeret and this is what the christian clergy don't want christians to know because the Truth Shall set you free.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Do your research on the internet .. because we all know you can only post the truth on the internet!

      September 4, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Neil

      YHVH

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

      The truth is that you spend your energy criticizing Christians yet not a word against the evil ones who lead this world astray on behalf of Satan. Your confused logic sows division rather than strengthen. Paul tells us that love is greater than knowledge. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don't have love, you have nothing. Love your fellow imperfect Christians if you are indeed Christian. But your confused words shows a darker side that you don't even see. Humble yourself and put on the armor of God against the dark forces of this world and stop sowing division.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • TheRationale

      VoiceOf Truth

      Where do I begin to dismantle this? Not like the other guy makes sense to begin with, but still.

      Armor of God eh? Right, because its popularity is due to the intrinsically convincing nature and truth of Christianity's message, not Rome's adaptation of it in 313AD and the subsequent hundreds and thousands of year of persecution of all those who didn't follow or convert? Spanish Inquisition anyone? Why do you think central and southern America is Christain? Because conquistadors and explorers forced Christianity on the peoples there. What about Christian parts in Africa? Like they've got some different story?

      Division? What about these Christian missionaries in Uganda who have the death penalty itchingly close to being imposed to g.ays. Or the general bigotry shown towards them in the US in general? The lobby against equal marriage rights is very strong. Or what about the big creationism lobby, which is retarding the science education in this country at an alarming rate of success.

      Love may perhaps be more valuable than knowledge, although knowledge is undoubtedly invaluable. Faith is not a pathway to truth, and Christianity is not a good philosophy. Many of the "dark forces" in the world are the direct result of Christianity, as well as religion in general.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  12. steve

    These people should just be happy they have jobs. Now do what the boss tells you to do and be quiet.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Daniel B.

      And your name is Steve, right?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Richard Hode

      Do you always crawl on your belly like a reptile?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Jake

      Exactly. Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want, but that doesn't mean they can break the rules in the name of their "religion". If that logic held, anyone could make up anything, call it religion, and break all the laws they wanted. Leave your religion at home, or better-yet, just leave your religion!

      September 4, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  13. Jean Sartre

    BA (British Airways) back beyond 2006 stopped their flight attendants from wearing crosses. This was no big deal!

    I personally appreciated it as I thought the wearing of crosses by these attendants was merely a prelude to carrying Bibles and the 10-Commanments down the aisle.

    IF people want to believe in an imaginary man in the sky, go to a church, etc., that is just fine by me, however, when their beliefs or practices interfere –subject me to their idiocy – with my personal rights, including to be FREE FROM RELIGION, and their behavior goes against PUBLIC POLICY, then I have some very serious issues with their BEHAVIOR.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Dennis

      Yeah genius, because when they wore them the previous 50 years a Bible was always part of it. Your logic is about as flawed as your understanding of people rights and your sense of self importance.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Neil

      So, what you are saying is only the religion of atheism should be practiced.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Jake

      Neil, atheism is not a religion, it is a lack of belief in this imaginary thing religion calls "god". That's it.

      Dennis, the logic is perfectly sound. "Religion" should not be an excuse for people to break the rules. If a company doesn't want their employees showing support for religion while on the job (a very reasonable desire for a number of reasons), that should be perfectly legal.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Nah, nonsense. Wearing a cross is not the same as carrying bibles, so stop being overly dramatic.

      Also, atheism is indeed a religion. The world serves one of two masters: Our Heavenly Father, or Satan. Jesus said either you are with me or against me. Atheists are against Him, so therefore they serve Satan.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Voice, you're mistaken.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • TheRationale

      VoiceOf Truth

      I will have to correct you as you don't know what atheism is. It's a lack of a religion, specifically a theology. Atheism is defined as being not a religion. Atheists no more worship Satan no more than they worship God. It's also not up for debate anymore than saying bald is a hair color or yes is no.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Jesus said either you are with me or against me."

      george bush said the same thing and he wasnt the smart cookie around.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Adam

      "Jesus said either you are with me or against me. Atheists are against Him, so therefore they serve Satan."

      So, Jesus is a dark lord of the sith?

      September 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  14. JDA

    Someone crying discrimination (the counselor) because they weren't allowed to discriminate. That's rich. If you are a counselor and you are employed by someone else and not in private practice, then you do your job that is assigned to you. If you don't like it, then you go into business for yourself.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      This is actually a big issue among mental health professionals. Health care providers are requiring that professional counselors and therapist provide treatment to people with conditions, lifestyle and habits which the therapist recognizes are unsustainable. The therapist is then put in the situation of "phoning in" the therapy for the paycheck.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Such as what?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • JDA

      I have known gay couples that have been together for decades, longer than many, many marriages. So tell me again how that lifestyle is not sustainable?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  15. AJD13

    I am not concerned if someone wears religious jewelry, unless of course it is against the dress code that they knew about when they signed their contract and/or is banned due to safety concerns (which seems legitimate at a hospital with machines with moving parts or even out of control patients that could grab ahold of a necklace and injure a person). What really gets on my nerves is when religious people take it a step farther and feel the need to proselytize and preach to others. If I wanted to be a Christian and believed in that stuff, I'd still be a Christian. I'm perfectly happy as an agnostic, happier than I ever was as a Christian. So while I believe that people have the right to wear religious jewelry if they wish and are not violated any already existing dress/safety code of their job, I don't want to hear about their religious beliefs unless I ask, thank you very much. One of the most annoying things about religion, christianity in particular, is their grating need to preach and proselytize. Someone mentioned earlier in the comments that they think Jesus would rather them preach the gospel to people than wear religious jewelry....I can tell you one thing, I sure would rather that they not.

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

      It's the politically correct action of forcing the religion of atheism on everyone.

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

      And wishing for people to keep their religious beliefs to themselves because I don't wish to hear about it is pushing my supposed "religion" of atheism on people how? BTW...I am not an atheist, I'm an agnostic. If you don't know the difference, look it up.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Architect

      None of the cases mentioned in this article had anything to do with proselytizing. Companies and governments are bending over backwards to accommodate Muslims. So a little should be done for Christians too.
      Secondly, there are many Christians such as myself who don't push faith; we only discuss it when asked. That's our right, despite what others might think.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • AJD13

      If that's true Architect, then you are not the one of the people I am talking about and that's great. The point of the article is that no one is telling these people they can't be Christian and have their beliefs. In the case of the hospital worker, I can see very legitimate reasons to ban them from wearing jewelry and in the case of the counselor, how is crying discrimination because you're not allowed to discriminate in any way right? If he doesn't like the job assigned to him then he has the right to find a new employer that does not take gay clients or to go into private practice for himself. He contracted with his employer to do a job and therefore he is obligated to do that job in a non-discrimantory manner. He doesn't have to personally like or believe in his client's lifestyle, but he does have to do his job.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      You have to define "preach" and "proselytize" from your view. Jesus set the example for spreading the gospel. If a person is speaking in a public place about the Lord, then what's wrong with that? But if a person comes and knocks on your door to preach, then that would violate the example set by the Lord. But not all Christians have the gift of preaching, some just support preachers.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  16. prophet

    There is song by talking heads that is the them tune of atheism

    Were on the road to nowhere

    September 4, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  17. prophet

    but you did

    September 4, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  18. M.E.

    You don't have a religious right to discriminate against those your religion disagrees with. As for the cross necklace, if you're a nurse dealing with a combative patient, ANY necklace is a danger, not just a religious one. Hopefully to court rules against these folks.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Jesse Gonzalez

      Even hair can be a danger when dealing with a combative patient; maybe nurses should go bald. They also can put some baby oil on their bald heads so they can slip away: Let Christians "come out of the closet" the Faith is a public faith "Go to all Nations" said Jesus

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

      The religion of atheism is being forced on them.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • JDA

      BS Nell....no one is telling these people they can't be Christian or have their own religious belief.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • JDA

      Jesse...the worst that may happen if a patient grabs a nurse's hair is that some gets ripped out....the worst that can happen if a psychotic or aggressive patient grabs a necklace is that the nurse may suffer serious physical injuries to their throat or even be asphyxiated.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Amen, Jesse Gonzalez

      September 4, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  19. Will Stranske

    Religious belief should not be a free pass to discriminate. And there is no "one correct translation" of the bible because A) it's made up of a bunch of writings from different authors over a large timespan, and B) it's all fabricated mythology thrown on top of a few historical events.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Mickey

      There is something about being able to live one's life according to their own beliefs. You say "religous freedom should not be a free pass to discriminate." I respond with "Political/social correctness of the day should not be a free pass for the government to force you into living its ever-evolving set of moral beliefs."

      September 4, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Is that occurring? What examples do you have of such?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Micky .. it's not the government who decides what morality is, it's society ... and yes morality is constantly changing. If morality didn't change we'd all have multiple wives and be diddling our slaves!

      September 4, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Neil

      Morally? Atheists don't know about morals or ethics. All they do is give everyone lip service.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Neil doesn't know where "morality" comes from .. he still thinks it comes from a book of folklore.

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

      Well Nell, that's funny considering I'm agnostic which is close to atheist, I just don't believe that it's possible to know for 100% certain that there is no god....but I am active in charities, I do volunteer work, I have never been arrested or broken the law, not even a speeding ticket, I raise my children to be kind and considerate to others and they consistently win citizenship awards and get good grades in school and are tapped to be mentors to the shy and bullied kids.....but it's not possible to be "good" without god....ok....gotcha....I'll ignore all the observable evidence that that is not the case.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Neil, where's your evidence that atheists are more immoral than Christians? Got any? Or are you just toeing the company line?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Seeing that you have yet to respond to the comments in reply to yours, you must be a drive-by atheist

      September 4, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  20. prophet

    are you an atheist

    September 4, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      See the little "Reply" next to "Report abuse"? Use it. Nobody can tell to whom you're responding unless you do so.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:50 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Advertisement
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.