Our ‘Magna Carta’ moment
This column often falls foul of important deadlines and so it is this week with a landmark judgement case coming on Tuesday after I have written this. Paul Diamond, the lawyer who has represented so many Christians who have fallen foul of the new establishment, says that the verdict in the European Court is a ‘Magna Carta’ moment. The verdict “will have a profound impact on the civil and religious liberties of millions of people in the UK and beyond,” he adds (‘Christian rights: martyred on a cross of secular liberalism’, Telegraph, 14 January 2013).
There is some hope in the cases that involve the wearing of the cross. Though the coalition government has shamelessly supported the right of people to wear crosses it has nevertheless contested the cases of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, and Nadia Ewedia, a BA worker who were told to take their cross off at work. The government has maintained that religious freedom is guaranteed by the freedom to resign and get another job. Yet surely in Strasbourg they will look askance at this logic and recognise it for a downgrading of religious freedom.
Far more complex and intractable are two other cases that involve the creation of a hierarchy of rights in which those of Christians and those of homosexuals are set against each other. Christians fall foul of diversity and equality. Gary McFarlane, for example, hypothetically stated to his employer that he might have difficulty giving sexual counselling to a gay couple. Islington registrar Lillian Ladele asked to be excused from civil partnerships. Now in neither of these cases was anyone refused a service nor was anyone likely to be disadvantaged. But it seems the traditional Christian believer has no rights.
At the very least, I hope, Strasbourg this week will reject the notion of British courts that they have a right to interfere in the area of doctrine and theology. In the case of the