European court rejects three UK faith bias complaints

Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:15am EST
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By Claire Davenport

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - Europe's top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that equality laws and safety concerns trumped religious freedom in three cases where British Christians were sacked or sanctioned for expressing their beliefs at work.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled employers did not violate the religious rights of a registrar who refused to officiate for civil partnerships of same-sex couples and a counselor deemed unwilling to offer sex therapy for gays.

It also turned down an appeal by a nurse whose hospital barred her from wearing a cross around her neck. In the fourth case in the verdict, a British Airways clerk suspended for wearing a cross won her appeal and was awarded damages.

"The principle of non-discrimination against gay people has been upheld," said Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society which opposed all the appeals.

"The rights of gay people to fair and equal treatment would have been kicked back by decades" if the two appeals concerning same-sex partnership had been upheld, he said.

Andrea Williams, whose Christian Legal Centre in London represented two of the losing plaintiffs, said she would make a final appeal to the ECHR Grand Chamber.

She said the ruling let the government decide who abided by "an equality policy that promotes a same-sex agenda and asks you to believe in it, to comply with it and promote it."

GROWING TREND   Continued...

Nadia Eweida poses for a photograph in the Temple Church in London January 15, 2013. An employee who was asked by British Airways to remove a Christian cross from around her neck has won a religious discrimination case at Europe's human rights court but three other claimants lost similar cases on Tuesday. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor