By Hilary White

LONDON, November 30, 2009 ( – A Christian marriage counselor has joined the burgeoning ranks of those in the UK who have been sacked for their Christian religious beliefs. Gary McFarlane, a 48-year-old solicitor and part-time counselor with a relationship counseling charity, was sacked when he refused to endorse same-sex relationships as equivalent to those of heterosexual couples.

McFarlane has lost his chance at appeal with the Employment Appeal Tribunal in which he claimed unfair dismissal and discrimination contrary to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

McFarlane said that he believes the Bible teaches that same-sex sexual practice is immoral and therefore that he should do nothing to endorse it. He emphasized that he had no objection to others in the charity, Relate, counseling same-sex partners, but that for him it was a matter of conscience. An employment tribunal ruled in January that he had been wrongfully dismissed by Relate but had not been a victim of religious discrimination or unfair dismissal.

McFarlane said, “This decision is a stark warning to people of conscience in this nation that as a result of 12 years of Labour rule, the British establishment no longer values the democratic rights of its citizens to hold conscience as a matter of principle.
“Society is the worse for not allowing people of conscience to exercise legitimate rights”

Human rights activists are noting that in Britain Christians who work in any capacity in the helping professions are increasingly vulnerable to harassment and job losses when their beliefs conflict with the homosexualist ideology.

McFarlane's appeal was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, whose director, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said, “The seriously worrying underlying point in this case, which the Court has refused to accept, is that for religious belief to be protected it is necessary to uphold the right to manifest that belief.”

This judgment, she said, will “rule out any expression of deeply-held conscience.”

“Time and time again in British Courts we see that freedom of religion, Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, offers no protection whatsoever to Christians and other people of faith with a conscience,” Minichiello Williams said.

Religious leaders in Britain have increasingly warned that Christians and other believers are being “disenfranchised” in public life. Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, the emeritus bishop of Lancaster, said recently, “Until recently, I would have encouraged young Catholics to become involved in the political process … but realistically how welcome is the Catholic voice in British politics?”

Last week, the bishop's statement was echoed by veteran British Actor David Suchet, famous for his portrayal of Agatha Christie sleuth Hercule Poirot, who said, “Christianity is being marginalized in Britain.” Suchet said that this situation has come about because Christians have failed to defend their beliefs for fear of offending others.

He said in an interview with Woman's Weekly magazine, “I won't tell you the name of it, but a charity I work for got turned down for Government funding recently, because it was a Christian charity, even though it had been funded by the Government for several years.”

“Don't misunderstand me,” Suchet said. “We should embrace all religions and marginalize none. But we seem more concerned with marginalizing Christianity, and not offending other faiths. We are in danger of losing the importance of the Christian faith in our own country.”