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Equality research underlines challenges faced by Christians

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Issued by the Christian Legal Centre


News Release
For immediate release
12 March 2015

Equality research underlines challenges faced by Christians

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) has called for urgent action from politicians following the publication today (12 MAR) of new research highlighting the scale and diversity of challenges faced by Christians in the UK.

The report was commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which has described the study as its 'largest ever public consultation'. The research will inform future guidance written by the Commission and its continuing evaluation of the adequacy of the legislative framework.

The findings about the challenges faced by Christians have been welcomed by the Christian Legal Centre's chief executive Andrea Williams, who said:

"Over the past decade the Christian Legal Centre has led the way in supporting nurses, doctors, magistrates, teachers, foster carers, counsellors, marriage registrars, street preachers, children's workers, social workers and many others who have faced severe challenges in the workplace simply because they want to live in line with their Christian identity.

"Many have been disciplined. Some have even lost their jobs and livelihoods. For every case that hits the headlines, there are many more who approach us for help.

"This research comes too late to help them. However, it underlines just how widespread and diverse the challenges and hostility encountered by Christians in their every-day working lives can be.

"Recent legislation and legal judgments have led to a chilling effect. Politicians and judges must face up to that.

"Only last week, for example, in the case of Sarah Mbuyi, we heard in court that mainstream Christian views about sexual ethics are ‘discriminatory’ and ‘unacceptable’ in the workplace.

"When it comes to religion and belief, the current approach to equality and diversity is often failing on its own terms. Rather than bringing people together it is pitting one group against another. Rather than help build cohesive workplaces marked by genuine relationships it is all too often creating fragile, superficial workplaces where people feel that they need to hide their true identity and cannot speak about things that matter most to them. Rather than protect true diversity, it is driving out any difference or dissent from the new 'orthodoxy'.

"This research provides a new opportunity for the EHRC to propose a better settlement. At the very least, we need a requirement for employers and service providers to practise 'reasonable accommodation'.

"But it is ultimately politicians that need to take the lead, before our communities and workplaces become yet more fragmented.

"Before elections, political leaders may talk about Britain being a Christian country and how valued the contribution of the Church is. They may even say that 'faith should not be left at the door'. But if those that want to represent us are really serious, what we need now are clear commitments from party leaders to institute proper protections for Christian conscience and expression. And after the election we need speedy and concrete action to that end.

"Let's not forget that it was this Coalition government that told the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Nurse Shirley Chaplin, that the wearing of the cross is not a recognisable form of practising the Christian faith and that if someone's freedom of religion is sufficiently protected if they are free to resign and find employment elsewhere."

Council of Europe

In January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution calling for member states to promote "reasonable accommodation".

The resolution went on to call on member states to "uphold freedom of conscience in the workplace while ensuring that access to services provided by law is maintained and the right of others to be free from discrimination is protected" and to "enable Christians to fully participate in public life".




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