NSS condemns call for special legal treatment for Christians

The National Secular Society has criticised calls from senior church leaders, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, for special treatment of Christians in Court of Appeal hearings, describing the request as an outrageous attempt to interfere with the impartiality of the judiciary with the clear aim of engineering favourable outcomes for Christians in courts of law.

Lord Carey is backing a call for senior judges to stand down from Court of Appeal hearings involving religious discrimination, to be replaced with a specially selected panel of judges.

Stephen Evans from the National Secular Society commented: “Equality for all before the law must be non-negotiable. Special treatment for any religious group undermines the very fabric of our legal system and the fundamental principle of one law for all. All citizens should be alarmed by this cynical attempt to carve out special privileges for Christians. We call on the judiciary and the Church of England to resist this move, which is totally unworthy of a 21st century democracy.

“Judges are selected for their qualities of impartiality and are more than able to set aside their personal viewpoints when dealing with the many different kinds of interest groups. To facilitate special treatment of one group would inevitably lead to a slippery slope of calls from other interest groups demanding special treatment”.

The case for special privileges is being advanced by Paul Diamond of the Christian Legal Centre who is representing Gary McFarlane, a Christian relationship counsellor from Bristol, who is this week appealing against an employment tribunal decision that backed his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to gay couples.

The latest move comes after a long line of high profile cases that have been lost by religious activists in their attempt to create the impression that Christians are being discriminated against at work and persecuted in society.

Stephen Evans commented: ”The whole concept that Christians are being persecuted in Britain is ridiculous. Christian observance has been in decline for over a century so it’s only natural that the position of Christianity in society is undergoing some adjustment. Christianity has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, many special privileges in the UK but it now must accept that it is just another religion in a pluralistic society and can no longer expect special privileges for Christians to be granted.“