Christians treated too harshly by courts: UK Equalities Commission
LONDON, July 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In what is being interpreted by some as an abrupt “u-turn,” the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said that Christians are being treated too harshly by judges in legal battles, mostly over complaints brought forward by homosexuals.
Commission lawyers say they are concerned that rulings against Christians already made by UK and European courts have created “a body of confusing and contradictory case law.”
“Judges have interpreted the law too narrowly in religion or belief discrimination claims,” said a statement posted to the organization’s website.
The EHRC also said that it will ask leave to intervene in upcoming cases at the European Court of Human Rights. In several cases Christians who have come into conflict with homosexualist activists under the UK’s recently installed Equality laws, are pursuing their complaints at the Strasbourg court. These include Lillian Ladele, the marriage registrar who refused to perform same-sex civil partnerships, and Gary McFarlane, a relationships counselor who said he could not in conscience treat same-sex partners.
If given leave to intervene, the Commission says it will argue that the way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges in recent decisions is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief.
The courts have “set the bar too high” to prove discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, the statement continued. The EHRC contends that it is possible to “accommodate expression of religion alongside the rights of people who are not religious and the needs of businesses.”
John Wadham, legal director at the commission, said, “Our intervention in these cases would encourage judges to interpret the law more broadly and more clearly to the benefit of people who are religious and those who are not.
“The idea of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person’s needs has served disability discrimination law well for decades. It seems reasonable that a similar concept could be adopted to allow someone to manifest their religious beliefs.
The continued existence of the Commission, a “quasi-nongovernmental organization,” or quango, created three years ago to administer the country’s new equalities laws, is starting to be in doubt. Throughout its brief history, the Commission has come under criticism as a hastily constructed, Labour era financial white elephant dedicated to an outdated and discredited set of political ideologies.
A recent audit of the Commission’s finances has raised questions about its ongoing feasibility, with Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, expressing concern over the organization’s lack of financial understanding and competence. The audit found that salaries at the Commission, which has a staff of 540 and a £63 million budget, are too large for its budget and it is paying too many unauthorized salaries. The audit revealed that the Commission had breached government pay guidelines by £570,000. All together, the quango had spent £1.5 million without authorization.
Yesterday’s statement is being interpreted by homosexualist activists as a “u-turn,” given the Commission’s history of general antipathy towards the rights of religious people. Ben Summerskill, head of the politically influential homosexualist group Stonewall, said that the Commission’s statement “has apparently been made by officers without consulting its board,” and “confuses a settled legal situation that is currently clear.”
Recently, EHRC head Trevor Phillips surprised observers by issuing a statement in which he denounced Christianity, the official state religion of the UK, as “more militant” and “homophobic” than Islam. Phillips said that Christians need to “integrate” better into Britain’s “modern liberal democracy.”
At the same time, Phillips said that in some cases, Christians have borne the brunt of heightened anti-religious language by militant atheists.