The European Court of Human Rights is to hear a case next week in Strasbourg that will test the balance between individual’s rights to practice their religion and the growing secularist hostility to any public expression of religious belief.
The case involves a former nurse and a British Airways check-in clerk who have been denied the right to wear a cross at work together with a relationship counsellor and a registrar who have not been allowed to opt-out of tasks that contravene their deeply-held views on homosexuality. Sadly, in my view, British employment tribunals and courts have found that wearing a cross or holding traditional views on sexual behaviour are not core parts of the Christian faith. So it comes to this, that these poor people have to look to the European Court of Human Rights to right this appalling wrong. Do I have any confidence that the Court will find for them? What do you think?
In their support, Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester has submitted an evidence statement which likens the secularist attack on religion in the western world to the atheist regimes of the old communist east. Ranged against him is Lord Lester QC, a Liberal peer acting for the National Secular Society, who argues that allowing employees to wear a cross would create a hierarchy of rights that could make it difficult for employers to ban other “grossly offensive symbols”. He goes on to argue that expressions of religious faith should not be given special treatment over beliefs based on philosophy or rational analysis.
God help us!