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European Court Rules on Religious Freedom Cases

Greg Daly - published on 01/16/13

The manner in which British courts handled the Eweida, Chaplin, and Ladele cases were examples of this, with judges decreeing that the wearing of a cross was not a generally accepted – let alone scripturally mandated – manifestation of the Christian faith, and that a belief in the sanctity of marriage was not a ‘core belief’ of Christianity, and thus not entitled to protection under the ECHR.

The Court rightly rejected this approach, expressly noting that “there is no requirement on the applicant to establish that he or she acted in fulfilment of a duty mandated by the religion in question”. Instead, it recognised that many beliefs and actions can be genuine manifestations of Christian belief, regardless of whether or not they are explicitly required by the Bible. 

Previously the Court held that there was no breach of an employee’s religious freedom if employees could resign and seek employment elsewhere; James Eadie QC, counsel for the UK, had consequently argued that the applicants had been free to do this or to practise their religion outside work.

Now, however, and especially in light of how Ms Ladele’s working conditions had changed, the Court has ruled that it would be better for employers to consider whether restrictions on employees’ religious freedoms are proportionate and justifiable.

That only one case out of four proved successful is disappointing, but yesterday’s judgments nonetheless may help drive home the message that true religious freedom entails the freedom to live religious lives, and is not mere freedom of worship.
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Religious Freedom

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