Christians should be free to manifest their faith, says Bishop
Michael Nazir Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, has called on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to give religious freedom “its pre-eminent place in European society” and to overturn the increasing restrictions on the religious liberties of Christians in the UK.
In a written submission to the Strasbourg Court, Bishop Nazir Ali has warned that the rights of Christians are being "vanquished" by UK judges and that Human Rights legislation is increasingly being used to remove Christian values from public discourse, whilst upholding the rights of minority groups.
The warning comes as four landmark Christian freedom cases will be heard before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg tomorrow (4 September), with two involving former nurse Shirley Chaplin and British Airways worker Nadia Eweida, who were penalised for wearing the symbol of the cross at work.
The two other cases relate to freedom of conscience, and include that of relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane, who was sacked after he expressed a possible conscientious objection to giving sex therapy to homosexual couples.
Bishop Nazir Ali warned further that unless Christian values are respected, the human rights agenda will become another “inhuman ideology” similar to totalitarianism, unfairly suppressing and imposing restrictions on individuals.
He urged the ECHR to give Article 9 (the right to freedom of conscience) its “full and intended” effect and to recognise the pre-eminent place of Christianity in the UK.
He added: "The new Human Rights agenda must respect Judaeo-Christian values if it is not to become another inhuman ideology imposing restrictions on individuals.
"There is a deep fear in the United Kingdom that the Human Rights agenda is becoming set against human rights; and seeking to remove Judaeo-Christian values from the public square."
"As such, the Cross is part of our culture and reflects Christian values of love, sacrifice and service so central to European culture.
"In case after case in the United Kingdom, the rights of Christians have been vanquished.
"We have reached the stage where Christians in the United Kingdom risk their employment if they wear a Cross."
The Government has backed the rulings against all four individuals in it's recent submission to the ECHR, stating that they had not been discriminated against, and that their employers had every right to discipline them. It argued further that neither the wearing of a cross nor the following of conscience are an integral part of the Christian faith.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
"The outcome of these cases has huge implications for the freedom of normal Christians to be able to manifest Christian faith and live in line with Biblical teaching.
"We urge all our supporters to pray for a favourable outcome. The values based on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which have shaped our country for centuries and made it the thriving and flourishing nation that it is today, must not be supressed."