Tuesday, 12 July 2011

EHRC applies to intervene at ECHR in religious discrimination cases

Updated Thursday morning

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has applied to the European Court of Human Rights to be allowed to intervene in several recent cases concerning religious discrimination in the workplace.

The EHRC has issued this press release: Commission proposes ‘reasonable accommodation’ for religion or belief is needed.

Judges have interpreted the law too narrowly in religion or belief discrimination claims, the Commission has said in its application to intervene in four cases at the European Court of Human Rights all involving religious discrimination in the workplace.

If given leave to intervene, the Commission will argue that the way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief.

It will say that the courts have set the bar too high for someone to prove that they have been discriminated against because of their religion or belief; and that it is possible to accommodate expression of religion alongside the rights of people who are not religious and the needs of businesses…

The National Secular Society is unhappy, see Equality Commission determined to push religion up the hierarchy of rights.

So is the British Humanist Association, see Equality Commission’s intervention in Christian legal cases ’wholly disproportionate’.

And Stonewall is deeply disturbed, see Stonewall response to EHRC statement on religious ‘discrimination’ cases.

The Christian Institute is however very pleased, see Equality body: Courts have failed Christians and also Humanists and gays fear EHRC intervention.

Updates

Some further reactions:

Christian Concern Equality Commission decides Christians have the right to follow conscience

Andrew Copson at Cif belief The EHRC’s stance on religious rights undermines its credibility

Patrick Strudwick The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s choice is beyond belief

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 at 11:37pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

Oh those nasty queers....doggone it, they want Christians to act Christian! Outrageous!

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 at 12:47am BST

This is mixed news. On the one hand the EHRC are correct that there is inconsistency in ECtHR decisions on discrimination on the grounds of religion contrary to Article 9 of the European Convention. On the other hand, part of the problems in domestic UK law (which is also inconsistent) stems from the fact that most of the cases are presented by the Christian Legal Centre rather than by more moderate or reasonable Christian voices.

Posted by: Wilf on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 at 9:01am BST

If they win, it will be a pyrrhic victory, as it simply makes them look prejudiced and nasty. If Christian discipleship is all about being allowed to discriminate against gay and lesbian people (never divorced people of course) then they show themselves up for what they are. What goes around comes around.

Posted by: sjh on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 at 9:11am BST

Finally there is some sense and reason regarding these issues, and considering how the European Court have decided in other cases it looks good for orthodox Christians who stand up against the hedonistic and sodomistic trends in todays society!

Posted by: Antony on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 at 12:05pm BST

But there have been cases about other things - like the right to have a palm cross in a lorry cab. It is hard to see what harm a palm cross does...

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 at 10:37pm BST

I am profoundly troubled that people, in the name of him who said, "Come unto me, all of you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," would have the audacity to claim that the freedom to discriminate is fundamental to their Christian identities.

Have they no shame?

Posted by: jnwall on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 12:31am BST

No Hannah but some of us don't want lorry drivers, teachers, doctors or whoever flaunting their religious insignia about which they 're making such a big deal.

The cross - palm or otherwise is not an unmitigated symbol of hope to all you know

- think : pogroms

I want people at work to ge with their um - work!

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 1:03am BST

The whole thing is a thinly veiled anti-gay assault.

What is the Commission thinking of ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 1:05am BST

Really, TA? You're going to let Antony's vile and bigoted attack (I don't see how "hedonistic and sodomistic" can be interpreted otherwise!)stay up, but will remove a post that calls him on his lies and bigotry?

Really?

I guess Lionel Deimel has it right:

Never encourage a masochist to apply the Golden Rule!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 5:30am BST

MarkBrunson: No comment on this article has been removed (yet).

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 8:35am BST

@Rosemary Hannah - I recall that the company in the 'palm cross' case had a policy of no decorative or other personal objects being on display in their vans - be they furry dice, copies of 'Nuts', or religious symbols. They wished merely to mantain a professional and uncluttered appearance in their vehicles.

"The cross - palm or otherwise is not an unmitigated symbol of hope to all you know" Laurence Roberts

Couldn't agree more.


Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 11:29am BST

I'll take a wait and see approach to this: if it's about the palm cross/crucifix type issues, I agree with the EHRC. Their statement is a bit thin on detail though.

I'm amused by Anthony's comment on "sodomistic trends". I hadn't realised sodomy was any more or less common than it was in the past, just a little more openly acknowledged.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 11:56am BST

Laurence C. & Laurence Roberts - you amaze me. The cross is a univeral symbol of hope - however not everyone may perceive it as such. Why do you see it as an opportunity to bash someone rather than to proclaim the glory of our Lord. Perhaps you would prefer the crosses were taken down outside the churches in case people thought it was glorifying the Crusades rather than the glorious sacrifice of our Lord.

As for sodomy being a trend - what ever the trend it is no more Holy.

Posted by: david wilson on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 12:55pm BST

So-called "Christians" who insist that their rights and freedoms are compromised by laws that ask them simply to be fair, equitable, and respectful of everyone's dignity are neither "good," "orthodox," or "Christian" in any meaningful sense of the word.

And, as Jesus says of those who stand in the temple and celebrate their differences from others, they already have their reward.

Posted by: jnwall on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 12:59pm BST

I am rather concerned about these developments. Having said that, these conflicts do have to be looked at on a case by case basis, and it is quite right to consider what is "reasonable" in each circumstance.

Posted by: Suem on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 1:26pm BST

"The cross is a universal symbol of hope - however not everyone may perceive it as such." David Wilson

Or to put it another way: "The cross is a universal symbol of hope except for the people for whom it is not a universal symbol of hope" !!

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 2:20pm BST

It seems to me that there ought to be a distinction made between religious garb and symbols that a faith tradition requires of its people and garb and symbols that are optional. As an Episcopal priest I may wear clerical shirt and dog collar while going about secular errands, but I am not required to [and usually don't]. When I taught at a public university I never wore clericals out of deference to Jefferson's wall.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 4:22pm BST

david wilson I invited you to think !

I said :

The cross - palm or otherwise is not an unmitigated symbol of hope to all you know.

Think :pogroms.'

For Jewish people in Britain in the middle ages the cross filled their hearts with dread, and there were more pogroms at Easter. This continued on into C20th- culminating in Nazi Germany.
Indeed hardly 'an unmitigated symbol of hope.'

For myself, in my own life if I need the services of a lorry driver, doctor or other service, I would find - and have found the display of a cross to be unsettling, to me as a gay person, as it makes me anxious about how I will be received, -whether I will be received.

The cross is not

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 6:39pm BST

Anthony says "and considering how the European Court have decided in other cases it looks good for orthodox Christians who stand up against the hedonistic and sodomistic trends in todays society!"

Let us not forget that it was the European Court that forced the UK Government to overturn the ban on gays serving in the UK Armed Forces.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/458625.stm

I wonder what the Court would say about the ban on gay bishops.

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at 10:40pm BST

The force of the cross's symbol *as* hope has been repeatedly undermined and corrupted by "christian" intolerance and cruelty.

Symbols change based on perception. That's why it is a symbol.

To try to make it a thing in and of itself is idolatry.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 4:40am BST

Just to add some perspective. The manager who disciplined the van driver had no problem in conspicuously displaying his own portrait of Che Guevara in the office.

Yes, I'm sure some will maintain a distinction between personalising internal office zones and the offence of leaving,(...sorry) flaunting a symbol, (...again sorry) an inflammatory symbol of religion in a position of public view, to wit, the vehicular dashboard. The assumption is that the public do not visit the office itself.

The employee had maintained an impeccable work record for many years. However, let's not give the palm-cross proselytiser (tabloid epithet alert) the benefit of the doubt. Let's 'strain at a gnat and swallow a whole camel'.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 7:09am BST

I don't understand this debate.

If the rule was that all cabs were to be free of personal display items, why should a palm cross be an exception?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 8:14am BST

I take the point that to many secular people, Christian symbols are the red rag to the bull. However if normal liberal Christians do not reclaim Christian symbols, the secular world will be left in its current state of misapprehension. A palm cross has many associations: with Jesus choosing to identify himself with a pacific path rather than a military one; with his self-chosen journey to humiliation and death; with the cycle of our rejoicing with him in this path, and then our repentance for our failings as the palms turn to the ashes of Ash Wednesday, where we wear out sorrows on our foreheads. Of all crosses, the palm is perhaps the humblest. If normal Christians do not reclaim their symbols, then they will be forever lost to extremists.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 9:23am BST

Rosemary that's your experience of it - that's great. But not so, as I said, for Jews and others.

Even within Christianity, some expressions of protestant sensibilty would have difficulties with such outward symbols, iconography. They certainly need great care and sensitivity.

I have my own personal sense of spirituality and devotion but I do not myself, wish to express it publicly, as so prone to misunderstanding.

I once had to see another GP as mine was away, and was appalled to find very large ostentatious text thing on the wall about Jesus. I was appalled and will never risk seeing her again. I felt for the many muslims and others using the surgery. For myself, I would not risk seeing her even if -especially if, I was on my death-bed.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 12:08pm BST

"If the rule was that all cabs were to be free of personal display items, why should a palm cross be an exception?" Erika Baker.

Other than to be the basis of a spurious claim of religious discrimination, none.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 12:39pm BST

The removal of the palm cross was only insisted upon when a tenant suggested it might cause offence to other religions.

There was clearly no general rule in place, before or after this, forbidding all work environment personalisation at thr Housing Association. If there was, the van driver's claim would then lack merit.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 5:56pm BST

"There was clearly no general rule in place, before or after this, forbidding all work environment personalisation at thr Housing Association. If there was, the van driver's claim would then lack merit."
Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 5:56pm BST

The BBC report informing us that the matter had been resolved by the cross being displayed in a position only visible by Colin (despite the lack of merit):
"WDH said Mr Atkinson had failed to comply with company policy, which bans employees from displaying personal items in vans."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bradford-west-yorkshire-13180247

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 15 July 2011 at 9:14pm BST

Martin,
Your correction is acknowledged, as is the ability to resolve disputes without wasting courtroom time.

A general prohibition on the display of personal items would have affected the work environment of all employees, not just the van fleet.

I wonder whether the Che Guevara poster is still in public view on the Housing Association Manager's wall? I guess that common-sense prevails indoors.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 16 July 2011 at 8:09am BST

David
"A general prohibition on the display of personal items would have affected the work environment of all employees, not just the van fleet."

So was the company lying when it said that its policy concerned only vans?
Is it not legally possible to write a policy that affects only that part of the "company" that is visible to the general public?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 16 July 2011 at 10:06am BST

Erika,

I did acknowledge Martin's correction. The policy mentioned only affected the van staff and was therefore specific to them, rather than enjoined upon all.

It may be legally possible to write a policy regarding personalisation that only affects the parts of the business in regular public view, but the Housing Association would have to prove that it had not been enforced selectively, or just in response to a particular complaint.

If the general public were allowed to talk to the Housing Association manager in person, or make a complaint about the offensive religious display, they might have had occasion to endure the uncompromising glare of Che Guevara's countenance.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 16 July 2011 at 4:26pm BST

David,

apologies, I misread what you wrote, thinking you accepted Martin's correction but nevertheless thought there had been no ban that concerned all the cabs. My fault!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 16 July 2011 at 6:38pm BST

No sweat. Enjoy your Sunday service! :-)

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 16 July 2011 at 11:18pm BST
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