LONDON, January 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Anglican bishop and a retired Law Lord have commented that the British legal culture now systematically discriminates against Christians and said that the “tide has to turn.”

The Anglican bishop of Winchester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, blamed general religious illiteracy and the Human Rights Act 1998, passed by Tony Blair’s Labour government, for Christians being marginalized by the courts. 

The bishop was speaking of the case of a Christian relationship counselor, Gary McFarlane, who was fired in 2008 after he told his employers that he could not in conscience counsel same-sex partners. McFarlane had challenged the dismissal in the Court of Appeal, arguing that attempts to force him to contradict his beliefs constituted religious discrimination. Lord Justice Laws dismissed case, saying that any attempt to seek protection for religious beliefs under the law is “irrational” and “capricious.” Laws claimed that doing so could set Britain on the road to becoming a “theocracy.”

Scott-Joynt told the BBC that the case shows that “for the first time in our history there is a widespread lack of religious literacy among those who one way and another hold power and influence, whether it’s Parliament or the media or even, dare I say it, in the judiciary.”

“The risk would be that there are increasingly professions where it could be difficult for people who are devoted believers to work in certain of the public services, indeed in Parliament. Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on.”

Following the bishop’s remarks, the Daily Telegraph quoted Lord Woolfe, a member of the House of Lords and the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from 2000 until 2005, who said the bishop’s complaints have “a grounding in the facts.”

“I think it’s a very good thing that you voice those concerns because the tide goes in and the tide goes out in these areas and sometimes it’s about time the tide turned a bit and started to go back. We may have gone too far.

“The law must be above any sectional interest even if it is an interest of a faith but at the same time it must be aware of the proper concerns of that faith. The law should be developed in ways that, wherever practicable, it allows that faith to be preserved and protected.”

Just this week news broke of the latest case of a Christian in the UK coming head-to-head with her employers because of her beliefs. Thirty-nine-year-old Margaret Forrester, a UK mental health care worker, has been suspended and threatened with firing, for having shared her beliefs with her colleagues in a private conversation on the mental health risks posed by abortion.