Date: May 26, 2013
By BosNewsLife News Center
LONDON/STRASBOURG (BosNewsLife)-- The European Court of Human Rights will decide Monday, May 27, whether to allow the final appeal of three British Christian professionals who were dismissed from their duties for wearing a cross and expressing Biblical views about marriage and sexual ethics, an advocacy group supporting the plaintiffs said.
A panel of five judges will consider "whether the cases of Shirley Chaplin and Gary McFarlane should be heard by the Grand Chamber of the Court" the highest and final "Court of appeal on matters related to the European Convention on Human Rights," Christian Concern told BosNewsLife.
Chaplin said she had worn a cross necklace without incident throughout her nearly thirty years in frontline nursing.. "Then, as part of a new uniform policy, she was told to remove it by her then employers" the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust, "despite indicating that it was a symbol of her faith and that allowances were made for the religious dress of others," Christian Concern added.
"She was moved from frontline nursing to clerical duties, a role that ceased to exist six months later." The British government reportedly stressed there were "over-riding health and safety reasons for the sudden ban" but Christian Concern, citing hospital documentation, claimed those worries "were only raised later".
Her co-plaintiff Gary McFarlane, an experienced relationships counselor, was dismissed after indicating during a training course that based on his
Christian faith he might have a "conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to a same-sex couple if the situation ever arose."
He was fired for "gross misconduct for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation" though the issue involved a "hypothetical scenario" and there was "no risk of anyone being denied a service or of any undue burden being placed on his employer," Christian Concern told BosNewsLife.
There were several other counselors who could have provided the service and McFarlane conscience could have been "easily accommodated", trial observers said. "He was effectively a victim of 'thought policing', being penalized for 'thought crime'," Christian Concern complained.
Additionally, judges will also rule on the case of Lillian Ladele, a marriage registrar, who worked for Islington Borough Council in London. When civil partnerships were legalized in 2004, Ladele refused to conduct them, saying it was against her religious beliefs.
In December 2007, the local authority changed the rules governing their registrar's working conditions which allowed her to swap civil partnership ceremonies with colleagues, to a system which granted her far less flexibility. Ladele argued she was being forced by the north London council to chose between her Christian faith and her job.
She claimed she was shunned and accused of being homophobic for refusing to carry out the ceremonies. In July 2008, an employment tribunal ruled in Ladele's favour, saying she had been harassed, but later that year the Employment Appeal Tribunal reversed the ruling, which was upheld in appeal.
Though Britain was found to be in violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights in these cases, the court in January ruled that "any restriction on the freedom" of the plaintiffs "was within the discretion that it affords to Member States."
The European judges therefor rejected the actions of the three Christians in January 2013, but ruled in favor of Nadia Eweida, a Pentecostal Christian of Egyptian descent - who went home from a job as a check-in worker for British Airways (BA) at Heathrow Airport after she refused to conceal her silver cross necklace.
The outcome of Monday's proceedings could have wider implications for the religious freedom of the 800 million people living in the Council of Europe area, according to analysts.
Christian Concern said it had urged its supporters to pray that the three Christians would be able to launch a final appeal.