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The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled concerning three Christians and their rights to express their faith.
The first case involved Nadia Eweida, a British Airways clerk, who won her case to wear a cross at work. Mrs Eweida had faced disciplinary action from British Airways for refusing to stop wearing the cross. Although wearing a cross is not a basic tenant of the Christian faith, the court ruled she had a right to manifest her faith through wearing it.
However the court rejected a similar case from nurse, Shirley Chaplin, on the grounds that wearing a cross was a breach of health and safety regulations.
The ruling means a persons right to manifest their faith can be overridden on grounds of health and safety.
The other two cases brought to the Human Rights Court are of particular concern to Christians and Muslims. They involved Gary McFarlane, a relationships councillor; and Lillian Ladele, a marriage registrar. Mr McFarlane was dismissed after saying he would be unable to provide relationship counselling to same-sex couples on the grounds that it compromised his Christian values.
Miss Ladele was disciplined for asking her employer to be excluded from conducting civil partnerships for same-sex couples on grounds of her faith.
The court in Strasbourg rejected both cases. Paul Lambdin, partner in the employment department at Stevens & Bolton, said, “It appears that those Christians, Muslims and others who disagree with same sex marriage and/or civil partnerships will be excluded from certain jobs.
He added: “These cases demonstrate the difficulty of divorcing a belief from its practice. “The practical effect is that Ms Ladele, Mr McFarlane and others with similar religious convictions may be lawfully excluded from certain jobs.”
Mike Judge, spokesman for The Christian Institute, which supported Miss Ladele, said: “What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold.
“If the Government steamrollers ahead with its plans to redefine marriage, then hundreds of thousands of people could be thrown out of their jobs unless they agree to endorse gay marriage.”
With the UK government pushing to redefine marriage within the UK, it is likely there will be an increase in cases like those of Mr McFarlane and Miss Ladele.