‘If believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly, the law is right to prevent them’

British Humanist Association comments on Equality Commission intervention

Domestic courts have been right to uphold human rights and equalities law and principles in dismissing cases of alleged Christian discrimination, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has stated today. The BHA commented following the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) publication of its interventions in four cases being taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, and a summary of responses to its consultation on the detail of those interventions.

In July the BHA criticised as ‘wholly disproportionate’ (http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/850) the EHRC’s announcement to intervene in the cases of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who refused to fulfil her duties because of her ‘orthodox Christian beliefs’ against same-sex partnerships and Gary McFarlane, who refused to treat gay couples equally with straight ones in his job as a counsellor at Relate; and the cases of Nadia Eweida, who has repeatedly lost her claims of religious discrimination against her employer British Airways, and of Shirley Chaplin, who claimed that uniform codes violated her human rights as a Christian.

However, following its initial announcement to intervene and to argue for ‘reasonable accommodation’, the EHRC decided not to make the case for ‘reasonable accommodation’ in any of the four cases, and it consulted on the detail of its proposed interventions. The BHA is a stakeholder with the EHRC and responded to the consultation, giving particular commendation to the EHRC’s new proposals to support the domestic judgments in Ladele and McFarlane cases.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Our domestic courts have been robust in dismissing these cases and the victim narrative that lies behind them has no basis in reality. What they describe as discrimination and marginalisation of Christians is in fact the proper upholding of human rights and equalities law and principles. All reasonable people will agree that there is scope in a secular democracy for reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs when that accommodation does not affect the rights and freedoms of others. But if believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly – denying them a service because they are gay or claiming a right to preach at them in a professional context – the law is right to prevent them.’


For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson at andrew@humanism.org.uk or 07534 258596.

Read the EHRC's press statement about their interventions http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/human-rights-legal-powers/legal-intervention-on-religion-or-belief-rights/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.