28 May 2013

European Court of Human Rights rejects appeals on religious discrimination

In January 2013 the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Eweida and Others v UK. The case, involving four applicants, concerned whether or not UK law provided sufficient protection for employees who wish to manifest their religious beliefs in the workplace. Only one of the applicants, Ms Eweida, won her case.

Two of the applicants, Mr McFarlane and Ms Ladele requested a referral of their cases to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, however, a press release from the Court today confirms their request has been rejected.

Mr McFarlane was dismissed because he failed to undertake to provide relationship counselling to same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs. Ms Ladele was dismissed for refusing to perform same sex civil ceremonies, again because of her religious beliefs. Both claimants asserted that their employers could have accommodated their Christian beliefs by making rostering or filtering arrangements so that neither would have to carry out such duties. Both employers had argued that they required all employees to act in a manner which did not discriminate against others. The European Court of Human Rights held that this was a legitimate objective confirming that religious beliefs will not be allowed to override social inclusivity. In rejecting their requests for a referral, the Grand Chamber has confirmed this position.

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