The UK courts had ruled that wearing a cross was not a “requirement” for adherents to the Christian faith, unlike the wearing of a turban by Sikh men or the wearing of a headscarf by Muslim women. However, the ECHR disagreed, ruling that the British Airways dress code “…amounted to an interference with her right to manifest her religion.”
Three other ‘Christian discrimination’ cases were also determined in the same ECHR judgement. Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was not allowed to wear a cross and necklace for health and safety reasons when working on a ward, lost her case. The ECHR ruled that instructing her not to wear a necklace for health and safety reasons was “not excessive”. The two other cases involved Christians who refused to carry out certain activities which they considered would condone same-sex relationships.
Lillian Ladele was a London Borough of Islington Registrar who refused to perform civil partnership ceremonies, and Gary McFarlane was a Relate counsellor who refused to offer sex therapy to same-sex partners. Both claimants effectively wanted dispensation from their employers to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. However, they lost their cases when the ECHR ruled that their employers had been “entitled to strike a balance between the claimants’ rights to manifest their religious beliefs and the rights of others not to suffer discrimination”.
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