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European Court of Human Rights rejects Christians' cases that their religious rights were violated by employers


Three British Christians who claimed their religious rights were violated by employers were told by European judges today that they could take their rejected cases no further.

Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele saw their discrimination claims rejected by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg earlier this year.

Mrs Chaplin was switched to a desk job after she refused to take off a crucifix which hung round her neck, while Miss Ladele was disciplined by Islington council for refusing to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

Mr McFarlane was dismissed from his role with the charity Relate after indicating he might have a conscientious objection to providing therapy to a same-sex couple.

The claimants attempted to take their appeals to the Grand Chamber of the Court but the judges have rejected their request.

Mrs Chaplin's claims were rejected on the grounds that the removal of her necklace was necessary to protect the health and safety of nurses and patients.

Appeals by Miss Ladele and Mr McFarlane were dismissed on the grounds that disciplinary proceedings against them were justified.

The ruling stated that both Islington council and Relate were bound by duties not to discriminate against their clients and meant they could not support staff who refused to work with homosexual couples.

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: "Fortunately, Europe's highest court has now wisely followed numerous lower courts and rejected the applicants' attempts for religious conscience to trump equality law.

"The UK has the world's most comprehensive equality laws which already include strong protection for religious believers and they would have been fatally compromised, particularly for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual) people had the Grand Chamber overturned any of these judgments.

"We hope that this will now draw a line under the attempts by a small coterie of Christian activists to obtain special privileges for themselves which would invariably come at the expense of other people's rights.

"The principle of equality for all, including for religious believers, is now established and they should stop wasting the time of the courts with these vexatious cases."

The cases were rejected in January as another case - involving British Airways worker Nadia Eweida - was upheld.

Miss Eweida, a Coptic Christian, was sent home from work for displaying a small silver crucifix during her job as an airport check-in attendant for the airline.

The Strasbourg court ruled the decision to express her faith warranted protection under the European Convention on Human Rights and Miss Eweida been discriminated against under freedom of religion laws.