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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

NSS given leave to intervene at ECHR in religious discrimination cases

The National Secular Society has today been given leave by European Court of Human Rights to intervene as a third party in the controversial applications for appeal against judgments by the UK courts.

They concern

  • Ewedia who refused to comply with British Airways' uniform policy
  • Chaplin who considers it a manifestation of her religion visibly to wear a crucifix on a chain around her neck (an employee of Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Ladele the Islington registrar who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and
  • McFarlane a counsellor for Avon Relate who refused to give an unequivocal commitment to counsel same-sex couples.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society commented:

“These four cases have a major bearing on the extent to which employees’ manifestation of their religion can impinge on others. We want to make sure that the European court considers all aspects of the relevant law.

“The NSS submission will deal with the implications for equal treatment that would be raised by the granting of greater protection to actions motivated by religious belief than is granted to actions motivated by fundamental beliefs that happen to be non-religious in nature.

“The NSS will further focus on the degree of protection which it is necessary under the convention to afford third parties who may be subjected to a detriment which is motivated by, or a manifestation of, a religious belief.

“We will also deal with the significance of a religiously neutral public space for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

“Finally, we will address the nature of the limitations prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society in the interests of the protection of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

“The Society’s submissions will be confined to legal arguments, rather than express opinions on the facts of the cases.”

Published Fri, 05 Aug 2011