STRASBOURG, June 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has told the British government that they must clarify the rights of Christians with regard to the recently installed “equalities” laws.

In particular the government must state whether they believe that the rights of Christians have been infringed in recent cases where individuals have been penalized for expressing their faith in the workplace, either by wearing a cross or refusing to affirm homosexuality.

The court asked the British government, “In each case, did the restriction on visibly wearing a cross or crucifix at work amount to an interference with the applicant’s right to manifest her religion or belief, as protected by Article 9 [the right to freedom of religion] of the Convention?”

Four British Christians who have clashed with the Equality Act, brought the complaint to the ECHR after they each lost their appeals in British courts. The case has been judged to merit further investigation by the ECHR. When British government ministers have responded, the Court will decide whether to hold further hearings.

The four are Nadia Eweida, a British Airways worker who was told she could not wear her cross necklace at work; Lillian Ladele a marriage registrar who was disciplined for refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies; Gary McFarlane, a relationship counselor sacked by the counseling service Relate for saying he could not give sex therapy counseling to gay partners; and Shirley Chaplain, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards after refusing to remove her cross necklace.

The four cases are emblematic of the increasing difficulties faced by Christians in the UK who wish to publicly profess or act according to their beliefs in their professional lives.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), called the four cases “massively significant.” The CLC has been in the lead defending the rights of Christians who have come into direct conflict with the laws, particularly with regards to homosexuality.

Williams said, “There seems to be a disproportionate animosity towards the Christian faith and the workings of the courts in the UK has led to deep injustice.

“If we are successful in Strasbourg I hope that the Equalities Act and other diversity legislation will be overturned or overhauled so that Christians are free to work and act in accordance with their conscience.”

She added, “People with orthodox views on sexual ethics are excluded from employment because they don’t fit in with the equalities and diversity agenda. It is this which we want to see addressed. Such injustice cannot be allowed to continue.”

When the Tony Blair Labour government implemented the Equality Act, particularly the Sexual Orientation Regulations, the highest profile result was the closure of nearly all of Britain’s Catholic adoption agencies, who could not allow homosexual partners or singles apply to adopt children while maintaining their ties with the Catholic Church. Since then, a public atmosphere of intolerance has grown against Christians speaking their mind or acting according to their conscience.

Individuals have found themselves penalized for such offenses as saying in public that homosexual behavior is sinful, for refusing to let rooms in their hotels to homosexual partners, and for displaying Christian symbols while working.

Christian health care workers who want to wear a cross, who oppose abortion, who believe that homosexuals can be helped to leave their lifestyle and who share information on the therapeutic value of faith have all come into conflict with the new law, with most losing their cases in various hearings.