Published: 11:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 25 August 2011
UK Equalities watchdog drops plan to protect Christians
Country/Region: Europe, United Kingdom
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has abandoned plans to give Christians greater freedom to follow their beliefs in the workplace.
The UK's equality watchdog announced in July that judges had interpreted the law "too narrowly" in cases when Christians had claimed religious discrimination. It said that the way existing human rights and equality law was being interpreted by judges was "insufficient" to protect freedom of religion or belief. And it argued that rulings by British and European courts had created a "confusing and contradictory" body of law that was making it "difficult" for employers to know how to treat the religious sensitivities of their employees.
However, a document posted on the Commission’s website indicates that the watchdog, which is chaired by Trevor Phillips, has made a U-turn. Some Christian groups have responded by saying that the Commission has dropped its support for religious freedom in the face of criticism from secular campaigners and gay rights groups.
The EHRC had been granted permission to intervene in the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, in the cases of Nadia Eweida, a British Airways check-in clerk who was dismissed without pay in 2006 for refusing to cover up her cross necklace; nurse Shirley Chaplin, who was removed from ward duties after refusing a similar request; Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor who was sacked for refusing to give sex therapy to same-sex couples; and Lillian Ladele, a registrar who was disciplined for refusing to conduct civil partnership registrations.
But the watchdog has now launched a public consultation on the arguments it should make and has abandoned the plan to call for a new “reasonable accommodation” principle to be introduced, arguing that “this idea needs more careful consideration”.
A spokeswoman for the Commission said,
Our job is not to take sides in political arguments between activist groups, it is to make sure people do not face unjustified discrimination.
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Read the The Telegraph article - Equality watchdog drops plan to protect religious rights