Thinking Anglicans

European Court to hear UK religious discrimination cases

Updated again Monday evening

Next week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will hear four cases relating to alleged religious discrimination in the UK.

The Church Times has a report by Gavin Drake titled Strasbourg to hear religious-discrimination cases.

The Law Society Gazette has an article by Joshua Rozenberg Religious beliefs should be respected – when rights are not impeded .

John Bingham reports for the Telegraph on the evidence submitted by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Human rights ‘agenda’ is new totalitarianism, bishop warns judges.

The evidence submitted by the National Secular Society can be read here (PDF).

A press release from the Christian Legal Centre can be read here.

The official press release from the European Court of Human Rights is available here (PDF).

Updates

Frank Cranmer at Law and Religion UK has posted links to many documents (including two responses from HM Government) that have been published by Christian Concern, go to Eweida, Chaplin, Ladele and McFarlane: appeals to the European Court of Human Rights for those, and for a discussion of the contributions from Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and Lord Carey.

Laura Donnelly Telegraph A cross to bear

Craig Mackenzie Mail Online ‘Why I will fight to bear my Cross’: Four devout British Christians take their battle for religious freedom to human rights judges

The National Secular Society has a press release here, which includes links to two earlier court documents known as Statement of Facts: these are what the UK Government documents are responses to.

Owen Bowcott Guardian Christian rights cases go before Strasbourg court

Steve Doughty Daily Mail Carey blasts Cameron for going back on his promise as UK fights for a ban on crosses at work

Rosalind English UK Human Rights Blog Religious freedom in UK to be considered by Strasbourg Court

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Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

‘Christians against human rights’ Doesn’t it make a good headline. Just what the gospel says and Jesus taught?

God save us from ‘Christians’

David Shepherd
Guest

Richard: Should the ECHR petitions succeed, a better headline might be ‘Breaking news: Christians have human rights too!’ Christians should be ‘wise as serpents and harmless as doves’, rather than helpless judicial cannon fodder. St. Paul appealed to Caesar as a Roman citizen and these British citizens petitioners have every right to appeal to the ECHR. Of course, there are those who believe it is harmful to object conscientiously to an employer’s policy that mandates that all civil marriage registrars to become CP registrars. I wonder how they feel about the statutory duty of priests towards any couple presenting themselves… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“I wonder how they feel about the statutory duty of priests towards any couple presenting themselves as having met the legal requirements for a parish marriage?” That’s nothing more than scaremongering considering that the government has confirmed many times that no priest would ever be forced to conduct same sex marriages and that, in fact, they would not be allowed to until the church had agreed to it through its usual processes. And that church lawyers agree with this assessment. It worked with marriages of divorced people, why this determined effort to smear the campaign for civil marriage by pretending… Read more »

Martino Reynoldo
Guest
Martino Reynoldo

Joshua Rozenberg gives a very useful summa, at least with existing staffry. When civil partnerships were introduced the expectation was that there would be some latitude given to those with a principled objection when CP registrars were appointed, at least with existing staff. The blanket inclusion was not expected even if it was not excluded. At the time I drafted an LGCM response saying it was an unfortunate policy to adopt, the matter could have been resolved by making it clear to all new registrars (or those being promoted) that they would also be civil partnerships registrars. But what has… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

David Shepherd. Why continue the myth that Church employees would be guilty of a crime if they refused to marry anyone they thought did not measure up to their stringent requirement for Christian marriage.

This sort of scare-mongering ill befits ministers of the State Church, whose task is to bring the liberating love of God into human relationships.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

One cannot help but be concerned about the public pronouncement of former bishop Michael Nazir-Ali – on the subject of the preferential rights of Christians in a multi-cultural society in Britain. His is the rhetoric of a theocratic state, which Britain does not claim to be. When the world worries about the forceful energies of theocratic governments in other parts of the world, where punitive regimes set out to apply drastic penalties for any activity seen to undermine their dogmatic religious rule; it ill behoves a former prelate of the Church of England – which recognises the validity of other… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: “Human rights ‘agenda’ is new totalitarianism”

It would be hysterical (in the sense of hysteria=crazy), if it weren’t so tragic for the cause of the Gospel.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ron, although I think David Shepherd is deliberately scaremongering it is not true that anyone has to fulfil stringent criteria for Christian marriage in order to get married in a church. The CoE parish system means that anyone living in the parish has the right to a church wedding unless there are lawful impediments. The Coe’s own website http://www.yourchurchwedding.org/youre-welcome/you-can-marry-in-a-church.aspx states: “You’re welcome to marry in the Church of England whatever your beliefs, whether or not you are christened and regardless of whether you go to church or not. It’s your church, and we welcome you!” The only exception to this… Read more »

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

Canadian courts have rejected the claims of marriage commissioners who want to recuse themselves. I think it’s interesting that the court pointed out that the people were hired to do “non-religious ceremonies” (as opposed to ceremonies in which religion was a factor): “The government proposed that marriage commissioners who were employed before the law changed in 2004 could refuse to perform the services. It also proposed a second option where all marriage commissioners could refuse. But the court noted that marriage commissioners are appointed by the government to perform *non-religious ceremonies* and are the only option for some same-sex couples… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

‘Lillian Ladele was working as a registrar with Islington Council when civil partnerships were introduced. The council originally agreed that she did not have to conduct civil partnership ceremonies’

But later, after this interim arrangement became untenable, as it put strain on her colleagues who were standing in for her on Saturdays etc., Miss Ladele was offered another post which did not involve conducting CPs, but she declined to accept this offer. Thus, clearing her way for litigation it would appear.

Counterlight
Guest

“Human rights ‘agenda’ is the new totalitarianism.”

The ruling mullahs of Iran, the Taliban holy men of Afghanistan, the Chinese regime, the ruling Kim dynasty of North Korea, the junta of Burma/Myanmar, and the embattled Assad dynasty of Syria couldn’t agree more.

Feria
Guest
Feria

Erika: ‘The only exception to this are couples where at least one of the partners is divorced. In those cases the priest can refuse to conduct the wedding.’

Not quite the _only_ exception. There’s a similar discretion for individual priests in the case of couples who would have been too closely related to marry under old versions of the table of kindred and affinity, but are legally permitted to marry under the current version.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Feria,
I did not know that!
And there are also some special rules and exemptions for foreigners wanting to marry in church.

The main point, though, is that these exemptions exist, that they are honoured by everyone and that no-one has yet tried to enforce a different personal view through the courts.

There really is nothing to fear from civil same sex marriage.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

My personal hope is that all cases are turned down by the ECHR. In part this is because the ECHR is a conservative court that allows for a margin of appreciation to member states as opposed to micro managing minor matters. The balance between the rights of different groups is better established at the national level through Parliament and a national judicial process (which have already taken place in the UK). A positive ruling would have a significant impact on the manifestation of religion in other ECHR countries so I think the Court will take a balanced, cautious view of… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Erika:

Scaremongering, eh? I realise that you consider government promises are iron-clad and not open to amendment, since Lord Ali’s CP clause is a mere figment of my imagination.

Although we have vastly differing viewpoints, Feria and I agree that without overriding General Synod ‘Parliament retains the power to approve liturgy itself’: http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/005542.html

Liberal scaremongering? God forbid!

David Shepherd
Guest

For the record, I stated in the same comment thread: ‘I don’t think the State would force either a priest or religion to act against conscience. It would be more plausible for a well-funded pressure group to sponsor a case that would test the exemption of CofE priests from solemnising marriages of gay partners as an infringement of Article 12 rights all the way to Strasbourg. The easiest remedy would be to remove the historic duty of the priest to marry all eligible partners who request a church wedding and reside in the parish.’ So, Ron, Erika and whoever wants… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, yes, any future parliament could make all kinds of changes to all kinds of laws. That’s the nature of parliament. And any future General Synod could make all kinds of changes to all kinds of rules governing the church of England. That’s the nature of Synod. And any future pressure group could try to test all kinds of things in all kinds of courts. But it’s not helpful to discuss hypothetical things that aren’t on the table. What IS on the table is a promise by the Government to frame the legislation so that the church will not have… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

‘Because the first indications from the Government have been that it would prohibit religous same sex marriages just to placate the CoE and those churches who believe they should have the right to legislate for all other faith groups too.’

Yes, and the first indications from the previous administration was that they would prohibit civil partnerships on religious premises.

Far from wild prognostications, I am simply demonstrating that history will repeat itself in spite of firm undertakings to the contrary. That’s more reality than assuming the church adopt a blinkered naïveté that ignores past behaviour.

Once bitten, twice shy.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

Art 12 of the Convention explicitly states the right to marry is in accordance with national legislation. I can’t honestly see how a case could even be taken let alone won, seeing same sex couples would have a right to get married and religious bodies (the Church of England is still a religious body) would have the right to conduct such marriages if they wish or decline to do so if they wish and religious celebrants likewise. I fail to see what the case being taken would consist of. As to the distinction between what a State does and of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“Once bitten, twice shy” Er… there are no Civil Partnerships in religious premises. And no-one is forcing the church to bless any. No change anywhere only the persmission to change if the church wanted to. Parliament is not stopping the church from being responsible for its own choices – is that really what once bitten twice shy amounts to? As for the church adopting an attitude of naivety, I think it has made its position quite clear and there’s nothing naive about it, just a lot of fear and a lot of closing the doors to people. Whether that will… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

‘Er… there are no Civil Partnerships in religious premises.’

Tell Kieran Bohan and Warren Hartley. Their Civil Partnership ceremony was held at the Ullett Road Unitarian Church in June.

I presume your next rallying cry will be to extend British Citizenship ‘equality’ to all who reside here. It currently ‘discriminates’ against non-natives. Use PC language and victim status shrewdly and yet another institution becomes ripe for the great liberal harvest.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

John Courtney Murray S.J. must be rolling over in his grave.

commentator
Guest
commentator

‘Well funded pressure groups’ – now there’s an idea that could be adopted from what some might call the ‘religious right’! Anybody have a donor or two in mind?

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

“Miss Ladele was offered another post which did not involve conducting CPs, but she declined to accept this offer. Thus, clearing her way for litigation it would appear.” — She’s being egged on and funded, fair enough. The truly sad thing is that as a black person, Ladele should realize that there truly are still people in the American south, for instance, who don’t believe in interracial marriage owing to their religious beliefs (we’ve seen it twice in southern churches in the past 12 months for instance) — and that’s she’s fighting for them. I think her thinking on this… Read more »

magistra
Guest

I admit I find it hard to sympathise with Lillian Ladele, when she’s been working happily as a civil registrar for years. How many of the heterosexual marriages she conducted would count as adultery, if she took Jesus’ words on remarriage after divorce literally? But it’s apparently only with gays that she decides that there is no room for differing interpretations of Scripture, and that her conscience can’t allow helping such couples to commit to one another.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, as we said, Parliament is not stopping any religious insitutions from conducting Civil Partnerships. It is not forcing them either. And the Unitarians have long said that they wish not to be ruled by CoE moral disdain but that they have made up their own minds and wish to be able to follow their own discernment. This is a far cry from Parliament forcing any church to conduct Civil Partnerships. And it comes neatly into the category of the freedom of religious bodies to their own conscience that you also defend so strongly. If you have a problem with… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I have some sympathy for Joshua Rozenberg’s conclusion that : “Everyone should respect the rights of same-sex couples to register civil partnerships in accordance with the law. But we should also respect the rights of those with religious convictions, so long as those beliefs do not conflict with the rights of others. Surely a fair and balanced approach to both rights is not too much to ask?” The argument is, however, based on assessing Ms Ladele’s rights compared with the rights of the couples who wish to register Civil Partnerships, and it concludes that not a single Civil Partnership was… Read more »

Feria
Guest
Feria

Dear David, My point from that thread was that it doesn’t make sense to talk about Parliament “forcing” the Church of England to do anything (and I acknowledge that you personally are not one of the guilty parties with respect to talking that particular nonsense). Parliament is the primary decision-making organ – the “brain”, if you like – of the Church of England. Therefore, anything enacted by Parliament is, by definition, something to which the Church of England has voluntarily agreed. Not only that, as Erika points out, the historical record shows that, every time Parliament actually _has_ extended the… Read more »

Martino Reynoldo
Guest
Martino Reynoldo

“Once you allow exceptions like this …” I think that the point here was that there was an expectation of there being some difficulty and so the regulations allowed local authorities to separately appoint Registrars as CP Registrars. They remain different animals. The decision to appoint all Registrars as CP Registrars was not universal. Many local authorities accommodated those who did not want to do the job, though it clearly interfered with career prospects as no Registrar who was excused the task could expect to become a Superintendent Registrar in whose name the civil registrations takes place, and I must… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Erika quotes the C of E website as saying: ‘”You’re welcome to marry in the Church of England whatever your beliefs, whether or not you are christened and regardless of whether you go to church or not. It’s your church, and we welcome you!”‘

I continue to be surprised by differences between ‘Anglican’ churches. The Anglican Church of Canada canon on marriage explicitly prohibits clergy from officiating at the wedding of two people neither of whom are baptised.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“It would be more plausible for a well-funded pressure group to sponsor a case that would test the exemption of CofE priests from solemnising marriages of gay partners as an infringement of Article 12 rights all the way to Strasbourg.” – David shepherd – Your talk of a ‘well-funded group’ able to fund religious pressure groups are more likely to be the same as those which are presently funding the GAFCON agenda – devoted to border-crossing in the U.S., and funding conservative Churches in Africa. This is usually from organisations the the U.S.-based Christian-Right (probably responsible for AMiA’s activity in… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Tim, between the marriage act of 1753, and the marriage act of 1836, the only legally recognised marriages were performed in the Church of England, where they were legally registered. (I believe this was not true for the Jewish community and for Quakers but do not know the details of their exemptions). Most certainly, all Unitarians (including Elizabeth Gaskell) and all Roman Catholics,all Methodists, etc had to marry in the C of E. After 1836, it became possible for couples to marry in other denominations. Such things leave a lasting mark on the legislature. Currently C of E clergy are… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Thank you for that clarification, Martin.

So can we say that Islington had the choice to appoint special CP Registrars but chose not to do so? Do we know why? It seems that it would have made sense to have done so.
Not having done it, of course, all Registrars should now be treated the same.

I agree that Ms Ladele was badly advised. In fact, I believe all those who are bringing these cases have been badly advised and are being badly exploited.

David Shepherd
Guest

Martin:

I salute your exceptionally fair-minded treatment of this issue, regardless of the Strasbourg outcome that you support.

However much you may disagree with Ladele, you rightly highlight that the issue was not only predicted, but also better accommodated by other local authorities.

David Shepherd
Guest

Rosemary:

I re-iterate my view that I don’t think that the CofE will be forced by legislative fiat into solemnising marriage for gays and lesbians. Nevertheless, it’s facile of others to compare the church’s exemption from re-marrying divorcees with implementing same-sex marriage in a manner that contravenes UK and European Equality legislation. Divorced status is not a protected characteristic, whereas sexual orientation is.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Here’s a question that needs answering, I think:

How many registrars did Islington have on staff when the CP legislation was passed? Is it possible the Superintendent Registrar felt that exempting Ms. Ladele (or anyone else so inclined) would have left the office with too few registrars for the work load?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“The Anglican Church of Canada canon on marriage explicitly prohibits clergy from officiating at the wedding of two people neither of whom are baptised.”
– Tim Chesterton –

The A.C.of Canada is not the State Church. Things are very different in the Church of England (my alma mater) – where every citizen is considered to be entitled to be married in their local parish church. This is a legal entitlement, and the Vicar would have problems in officially denying any parishioner the right to marriage in the local parish church.

tommiaquinas
Guest
tommiaquinas

That’s not quite right Erika. The Register of Marriage Registrars and the Register of CP Registrars are two separate registers. Islington had to proactively register Ms Ladele as a CP Registrar, which they did (as I understand it) either without her consent or on the basis that she would be able to arrange her working patterns in accordance with her conscience.

What she should have done is resigned at that point and claimed constructive dismissal. It was perhaps her desire to be flexible and accommodating that was her downfall.

Martino Reynoldo
Guest
Martino Reynoldo

Erica, my experience of talking with those involved is they have been exploited, as you say. In the Ladele case I believe there were several attempts at accommodation. At first she was excused CPs, but I understand that she let it be known that she was ducking the duty and why, two gay colleagues objected. I understand she was then invited to officiate at “silent” CP’s, it’s important to remember that although Superintendent Registrars have variously authorised forms of words to precede signing the Civil Partnership Schedule, they are entirely superfluous. Couples frequently chose to turn up with their witnesses… Read more »

Gerry Dorrian
Guest

I don’t know how these cases will turn out, but hope that the European courts will not rule that it’s illegal for Christians to wear crosses at work: both because of the consequences for Christians, and those for people of other faiths who wear religious symbols at work without any particular wish to oppress Christians.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

I shall here be facile – it won’t be against UK equality legislation for the C of E to be able to decline to marry same sex couples but both in line with current equality legislation which exempts religions in both employment and goods and services as well as being an integral part of the legislation allowing same marriage (as happens consistently across the world). There is only employment protection at an EU level regarding sexual orientation so the issue doesn’t even arise in EU equality law (if such a Directive were to be passed it would have the same… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Gerry, I don’t think the question “is it legal or illegal to wear crosses at work” is being asked. What is being asked is “can an employer, for good reason, ask that no jewellery shall be worn with work uniform, and does Christian jewellery fall within this remit”. To my mind, it is absolutely astonishing that a nurse should not understand that it is dangerous to wear a dangly necklace on duty. The other question should be “to which extent is wearing a cross a central requirement of the Christian faith”. It is obvious that a Muslim woman should not… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

The thing that strikes me in this is the question of how deeply Christian it is to be concerned about articles of religious clothing or decoration, and the ability to make determinations about the moral status of other parties, refusing to have anything to do with them. WWJD? Perhaps more directly, WDJS (what did Jesus say?) about such matters. Critique of broad phylacteries and fellowship with outcasts seems rather to have been his metier.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

It’s very interesting to read the consequences of establishment when it comes to officiating at marriages. Here in the States, ECUSA’s Canons state, “It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize any marriage” (Canon I, 18). It did not occur to me that this conscience clause was not included in every Anglican Province’s view of marriage.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

How dare they turn the Cross of Christ into a political pawn, to be dragged through the courts and the mud ?

Turning It into a jewellery accessory ?

‘if any one suffer as a Christian…’ – now that would more truly be cross-bearing. And witness.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Non British TA readers and Guardian regulars might be interested in a national daily front page from this morning (Wednesday)

http://www.frontpagestoday.co.uk/uk/daily-express/newspaper.cfm

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“But the cross is nothing more than a voluntary statement of faith not required by Christianity. It is not part of religious observance.” I think you’re wrong, Erika (I think you’re right, though, about it not being always safe to wear jewelry on the job in some professions). Bearing witness to Christ – making voluntary statements of faith – is an integral part of Christian religious observance. This may not be the way that we choose to bear witness, but I question our authority to make up other people’s minds for them in this matter. Christianity isn’t monolithic, so it’s… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Yes, Laurie, and despite Erica’s careful parsing of the difference the law MAY attribute to different customs, interestingly I think the government opposition has more to do with what will follow on in the form of other apparel that might lay claim to religious value if the cross is allowed. I have the smallest suspicion that some of the same newspapers screaming for the cross would be screaming in even bigger headlines to see these banned!

I am sorry, the link I provided above changes every day as the front page of the paper changes, I should have realised!

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Bill, of course, this is one of the questions the court will have to decide. But I think that there is a difference between a voluntary statement of faith and one that is required of every member of that faith. I don’t know whether the law as it stands covers any voluntary expression of faith. And in case of the nurse, let’s not forget that she was offered the option to wear a pin with a cross on her uniform, all they asked her to do was not to wear a dangly necklace. I’m even less sure that religious people… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Actually I think the few Sikhs I’ve met were the only religion where every member I’ve known obeyed the same laws regarding dress–and that may have been because I’ve known so few. There are millions of Muslim women who don’t wear head scarves/coverings. They aren’t mandatory. Jews also don’t all conform to one dress code. So how can they say Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, etc. can do what they want, just not Christians because it isn’t mandatory? If Eadie had said that Muslims or Jews should just go find another job, would that have been acceptable?