Government criticised over Christian cases

12 March 2012

The Government is being increasingly criticised over its decision not to back four British Christians who have taken their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Government has told the European Court that the individuals concerned have not been discriminated against, and that their employers had every right to sack them. It further argued that neither the wearing of a cross nor the following of conscience are an integral part of the Christian faith.

Two of the individuals are being represented by the Christian Legal Centre: Shirley Chaplin, who was stopped from working as a nurse on a hospital ward because she wanted to continue to wear her cross; and relationships counsellor Gary McFarlane, who was sacked because he mentioned on a staff training day that he may have a conscientious objection to providing direct sex therapy to two homosexual men.

Religious Freedom

Any decision by the European Court on the cases will have huge consequences for the freedom of Christians in the UK and Europe to publicly manifest their beliefs.

Shirley Chaplin’s case hinges on whether human rights laws protect the right to wear a cross at work under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

Ms Chaplin claims that she was discriminated against when her employers barred her from wearing her cross.

Boris Johnson: ‘It’s a huge mistake to forbid a tiny act of Christian worship’

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has now stepped in and strongly criticised the Government’s stance:

“I don’t know the process by which government lawyers have decided this is the right way to go, but someone needs to march into their room, grab them by the lapels, and tell them not to be such confounded idiots”, he said.

“Mrs Eweida is a member of a group — Christians — and she wanted to express her membership of that group in a small and inoffensive way. She was suspended and sent home. She was told she could not have contact with the public. She was discriminated against. She did suffer disadvantage. It is plain as a pikestaff. Government lawyers should run up the white flag now. Never mind Strasbourg: it is time for some common sense.”

‘It’s who they are’

Rev Dr Peter Mullin wrote in the Daily Telegraph:

“It is important to understand what is implied by this: it removes rights from a practitioner of the Christian faith which has shaped European civilisation for 2000 years and redistributes these rights to its aggressive secular opponents whose stated aim is to obliterate Christianity from the public realm.”

Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

“It is extraordinary that the Government should take this stance. David Cameron likes to talk about the importance of our Christian heritage but seems to be firmly on board with those who want to stamp it out completely. It is very hard to understand what he really believes.

“Sharing faith in the public square goes to the centre, the heart, of a Christian’s life and belief – it’s who they are.

“Telling Christians that they can’t wear a cross to work is what happened in the USSR before things went really downhill there. It is time for people to wake up and understand what is going on – we are sleepwalking into increasing totalitarianism.”

Find out more about Shirley Chaplin
  • Share

Related articles

All content has been loaded.

Take action

Join our email list to receive the latest updates for prayer and action.

Find out more about the legal support we're giving Christians.

Help us put the hope of Jesus at the heart of society.