Posted by Tim on August 8th, 2011
The legal situation of Christianity in the UK is something that has been slowly giving cause for concern over the past few years, and has become more serious in recent months. Although our religious freedom is obvious to the many millions of Christians worldwide who can be oppressed, imprisoned, or even lynched with impunity because they lack any form of legal protection, an aggressive secularist agenda has been building up momentum, prompting well-known Christian apologist Michael Ramsden to observe recently that whenever Christian rights come into conflict with rights based on sexual preferences, they will be trumped.
Much of this situation has resulted from the Equality Act 2006, which (quite rightly) made it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of their religion or sexuality. However this left an area of uncertainty over what happens when rights collide, resulting in a number of court cases as pressure groups (and their lawyers) endeavour to get more clarity. We report on a number of cases so that you are informed about the issues.
Cross – For many years the wearing of a cross has been a issue which emerges occasionally in the popular press. It is not unusual for employers to ban the wearing of jewellery in the workplace and wearing a cross is not deemed to be essential to Christianity (unlike a Sikh Kara bracelet). A BA employee was banned from wearing a cross and in a high profile case BA was found not to have discriminated against her. A Christian taxi driver was ordered by York City Council to remove a palm cross from his cab in case it caused offence to passengers, though the council subsequently relented.
Public witness – two Christians were warned by police that they were committing hate crime by handing out tracts in a predominantly Muslim area of Birmingham. A university CU was reported to police for handing out gospels to students.
Homosexuality – A Christian couple running a B&B in Cornwall refused to let a homosexual couple share a double bed. They argued that they were not picking on homosexuals, but because of their beliefs only supply double rooms to heterosexual married couples. The court found them guilty of breaking the law, but reduced the fine out of respect for their religious beliefs. This couple subsequently admitted that they knew they were breaking the law but felt they had a right to set their own standards for their own business.
Faith in the workplace – A Christian doctor with an unblemished record may be struck off after discussing his faith with an adult patient who agreed to the discussion. A Christian nurse was suspended for offering to pray for a patient. A Christian registrar lost her job for refusing to officiate at same-sex civil partnerships. It is now illegal to advertise for a Christian to fill a job in a Christian organisation if when the job could be done just as well by a non-Christian.
Gay marriage – Earlier this year the Government announced plans to create same-sex marriages on the same basis as heterosexual ones. At the moment homosexual partnerships are recognised on a different basis to a marriage and there is no requirement to carry them out in churches. There are significant concerns that once gay marriages are legalised, it will be a discriminatory offence for a church minister to refuse to perform one.
After centuries of Christendom in Britain, Christianity is now actively being relegated to an obscure private viewpoint which is not allowed to have any impact on how Christians behave or speak in public. Christians are not actively persecuted yet, but it is clear that attempts are being made to disempower Christians so that they have no legal defence for traditional Christian activities and opinions.
While each of the above cases is worrying in itself for Christians, it is clear that the purpose of the law is good: that Christians can no longer discriminate against others because of their beliefs. The result however is bad: that others can discriminate against Christians because of their beliefs. Lions: 1 – Christians: 0
For further information visit The Christian Institute‘s website.
For an update on the current situations see A little more secular? The Lions have scored again.