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Christians take their job fight to European court

COURT DATE: Lillian Ladele (right) and Gary McFarlane

TWO BLACK Christians who claim they lost their jobs because of their beliefs are to have their cases heard by the European Court of Human Rights later in September.

Former registrar Lillian Ladele and relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane are among four Christians, whose cases will be heard on September 4.

Charity Christian Concern said in an email that the president of the European Court of Human Rights is to hear their cases.

Andrea Williams, director of its sister organisation, the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), told The Voice: “We hope that we will win the cases and that we will secure freedom of religion in the workplace. We hope to secure reasonable accommodation (so) where possible Christians should be free to live and speak out about their faith at work.”

She added: “Increasingly, many employees do not seem prepared to make it suitable for Christians to act according to their conscience.”

Ladele, a former registrar at Islington town hall in north London, had said she could not conduct same sex civil partnerships because doing so conflicted with her beliefs. She tried to switch rotas with colleagues but resigned when faced with being sacked by the council. An Employment Tribunal found in July 2008 that the council had unlawfully discriminated against her but Appeal court judges later overturned this ruling. Ladele was also refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in 2010.

VIEWS

That same year, the High Court turned down sex therapist McFarlane’s bid to challenge his 2008 sacking by employers Relate Avon. He had told his employers he could not offer such counselling to same sex-couples because of his Biblical views.

Lord Justice Laws said in 2010 that legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds cannot be justified.

The two other cases to be heard by the European Court are those of nurse Shirley Chaplin and former British Airways staff Nadia Eweida, who lost their discrimination cases in 2010.

BREACH

British Airways had suspended Eweida for breaching its uniform code by wearing a cross on a necklace while Chaplin said she was being forced to cover up her cross when the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust told her wearing it openly breached health and safety guidelines. The Trust had said it had suggested alternative ways for Chaplin to wear her cross while British Airways said its policy allowed people to wear crosses under their uniforms.

Williams said the CLC is asking the public for help. She said: “We operate on a pro bono basis. Everything we do for clients is free so we are reliant on people’s goodwill.”

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