Panel says judges have been too hard on U.K. Christians

July 12, 2011

LONDON (RNS) A government-funded watchdog panel said British judges have
erred in supporting employers who try to fire Christian workers for
wearing crosses or refusing to offer sex counseling to gay couples.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said Monday (July
11) that employers should ease up, saying current interpretations of the
law are "insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief."

The commission's ruling came barely a day after the Church of
England's General Synod called on the British government to give
Christians the legal protection to defend themselves against prosecution
for faith-based decisions.

In a string of legal cases in recent years, Christians have faced
labor and legal disciplinary action for wearing religious symbols such
as crucifixes on the job or refusing services to gay couples because of
religious beliefs.

Philip Giddings, chairman of the Church of England's public affairs
council, told the Synod that government regulations should "take proper
cognizance of the points we are making."

"We are not making this as a unique claim for Anglicans," Giddings
said. "It applies to everyone."

Only seven months ago, the human rights commission had backed a gay
couple in their suit against a hotel's Christian owners who had refused
to allow them to share a single room.

In other recent cases, an airline check-in clerk was denied the
right to wear a crucifix on her uniform, and a hospital nurse was barred
from a ward for insisting that she he allowed to wear her cross.