Judgment in the cases of four UK Christians will be handed down at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 15 January.
Christian Concern said that all four cases relate to the extent of
effective protection under the European Convention on Human Rights for
the manifestation of Christian faith in the public sphere.
Two of the cases nurse Shirley Chaplin and suspended British Airways
check-in clerk Nadia Eweida relate to the visible wearing of a cross.
The other cases of Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane and former
marriage registrar Lillian Ladele relate to protection of Christian
conscience in the professional arena.
Christian Concern is particularly interested in how the provision for
'freedom of thought, conscience and religion' under Article 9 will
translate into practical protections in diverse European societies.
The decision of the European Court will determine the direction of
freedom of religion from Lisbon to Vladivostok, and the rights of
Christian employees in the workplace to 'reasonable accommodation' of
The Christian Legal Centre is directly supporting Gary McFarlane and Shirley Chaplin.
At a hearing last September, the UK government contested all the
cases in spite of public statements in support of freedom to wear the
cross by the British Prime Minister and other government ministers.
In July last year, David Cameron told the House of Commons: "I fully
support the right of individuals to wear religious symbols at work... it
is a vital religious freedom."
According to Christian Concern Shirley Chaplin had worn her
confirmation cross on a small chain around her neck, without incident,
throughout her nearly thirty years in front-line nursing. Then, as part
of a new uniform policy, she was told to remove it although allowances
were made for the religious dress of others.
Gary McFarlane, an experienced relationships counsellor, indicated
during a training course that, if the situation ever arose, he might
have a conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to a same-sex
couple on account of his Christian faith. He was dismissed for gross
misconduct for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,
despite the fact that the issue involved a hypothetical scenario and the
fact that there was no risk of anyone being denied a service, since
there were many other counsellors who were willing and able to provide
Eweida was also prevented from wearing a cross, whilst Ladele was
disciplined by Islington Council for not being prepared to conduct civil
partnership ceremonies in spite of the fact that other registrars were
prepared to meet any demand for the service and Ms Ladele's conscience
could have been easily accommodated by her employer.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre,
said: "These are landmark cases and we have waited a long time to get to
this point. At stake is not only the future shape of Christian
involvement in community life but the protection of important personal
freedoms in a diverse society."