Hilary White

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European Court of Human Rights rules against Christians in conscience cases

Hilary White
Hilary White

LONDON, January 16, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of British Christians have been told by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that they have no right to act on their beliefs. The case was brought by the UK’s Christian Institute on behalf of two employees who had suffered discipline at work for wearing crosses, and two others who could not in conscience participate in or endorse homosexual partnerships.

The court ruled in three out of the four cases that the severe sanctions and dismissal from employment did not constitute a violation of Article 9 (freedom of religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Only in the case of a British Airways employee sacked for wearing a small cross at work was the UK found guilty of a violation of her religious freedom. The court ruled that because members of other religions were accommodated by British Airways with their wishes to wear religious items, Christian symbols ought to be allowed as well.

The court treated all four cases as one, and said that while Christians should be allowed to wear religious symbols at work, they could not refuse to participate in homosexual civil partnership ceremonies or counsel homosexual couples as though they were in legitimate marriages.

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The court said it was “not disproportionate” to dismiss the three other employees on the grounds that the sanctions were proportionate to the enforcement of the employer’s “equality and diversity policies”.

Sophia Kuby of the European Dignity Watch NGO called the ruling a case of “obsessive political correctness trumping religious freedom.” These “equality and diversity” policies, she said, while claiming to be about safeguarding freedoms are having the opposite effect.

It is an “obvious paradox” that they are “creating new discrimination against Christians,” she said. The ruling has “marked a new step in the discrimination against Christians who act according to their consciences or wear a non-controversial sign of their faith.”

Two of the justices dissented and issued a minority ruling saying, “The state is obliged to respect the individual’s freedom of conscience.”

“Instead of practising the tolerance of the ‘dignity for all’ it preached, the Borough of Islington pursued the doctrinaire line, the road of obsessive political correctness,” said the dissenting ruling. “It effectively sought to force the applicant to act against her conscience of face the extreme penalty of dismissal – something which … cannot be deemed necessary in a democratic society.”

Kuby noted that the decision is particularly worrisome since in one case, the complainant had been sacked for merely bringing his concerns to his employers.

Gary McFarlane was a relationship counsellor with the therapy service Relate. In 2008, when he expressed his concern over the request that he be prepared to provide same-sex couples with psycho-sexual therapy. Although he had never asked to be exempt, he was dismissed for gross misconduct.

Another of the complainants was Lillian Ladele, a Christian former marriage registrar who had been pushed out of her job at a London Council. In the ruling, five of the judges rejected her claim, but two said that she had indeed suffered discrimination because of her Christian beliefs about marriage.

Ladele worked for 16 years as a civil marriage registrar for the Islington Council in London. In 2004, when the Labour government passed legislation creating homosexual civil unions, she made arrangements with co-workers to cover the cases she felt she could not, but the Council refused to accommodate her beliefs or offer any solution. Finally she was confronted with the blunt demand that she conduct a homosexual civil partnership ceremony herself, an act that her religious beliefs and conscience could not accept. That was when she took the case to the Employment Tribunal.

The Tribunal agreed that the Council had created an impossibly hostile work environment due exclusively to Ladele’s “orthodox Christian beliefs” and found that she had been discriminated against. The Council had refused to consider her for promotion, disciplined and threatened her with dismissal and accused her of gross misconduct. They were also found to have failed to redress allegations that she was “homophobic” and had labelled and treated her as “homophobic”.

Mike Judge, spokesman for The Christian Institute, which supported Ladele’s case, said, “What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold.

“If the Government steamrollers ahead with its plans to redefine marriage, then hundreds of thousands of people could be thrown out of their jobs unless they agree to endorse gay marriage.”

Judge added that Ladele still had the option of pursuing the case further up the line to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR, but that she had not yet informed the Christian Institute of her decision.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website, www.babycaust.de, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” Katholisch.de editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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