Friday, April 16, 2010

‘Christian Victims’ of English Judicial System to Challenge Master of the Rolls

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and several high-profile Christian ‘victims’ who say that have lost confidence in the independence of the judiciary in England, will urge senior judges to stand down from future Court of Appeal hearings because of "disturbing" and "dangerous" rulings they issued in recent religious discrimination cases.

The former Archbishop and many of those who have been adversely affected as a result of living out their faith in the workplace, do not think a Bristol solicitor and Relationship Counsellor will have any chance of a "fair" ruling in his case if it is conducted in front of the judges who, they argue, have already shown a “lack of understanding of Christian beliefs”.

They are specifically concerned by a ruling of Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, on behalf of the Court of Appeal, that Lillian Ladele, a registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships ceremonies – because they were against her Christian beliefs – could no longer work as a registrar.

They claim that the effect of the Court of Appeal’s ruling in December now means that the right to express the Christian faith must take second place to the rights of homosexuals under Labour's equality laws.

Lord Carey, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, John Glass, General Superintendant of the Elim Pentecostal Network of which Gary McFarlane is a member plus several other Christian leaders as well as Magistrate Andrew McClintock, Registrar Theresa Davies, Nurse Shirley Chaplin, Teacher Olive Jones, Foster Carers Eunice and Owen Johns, Nurse Caroline Petrie and homeless support officer Duke Amachree will file letters of support to a unique application by lawyers acting for Gary McFarlane, a Christian relationship counsellor, that a panel of five judges and headed by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, should be established to hear his case.

Mr McFarlane, 48, from Bristol, is appealing against an employment tribunal ruling that supported his sacking for refusing to give psychosexual counselling to homosexual couples.

The hearing is due to be heard by the Court of Appeal, but it has not yet been decided which judges will hear the case. Mr McFarlane's legal team will argue that Lord Neuberger and other judges should "recuse" – withdraw from participation – in future religious discrimination cases because of their alleged prejudices and their alleged "disparaging" remarks as evidenced in the judgment of Lillian Ladele.

The Christian Legal Centre is also running the case of Theresa Davies, a professional colleague of Lillian Ladele who also felt unable to officiate over same sex civil partnerships as a matter of conscience. Rather than accommodating her religious beliefs, Islington council demoted her. The case of Lillian Ladele currently means that the case of Theresa Davies stands no prospect of success. Furthermore, Theresa Davies is forbidden by Islington from speaking to the press about her case.

Andrew McClintock, former family panel Magistrate said:

“My religious beliefs were not considered as important as the rights of homosexual couples. Rather than accommodating me, my employer dismissed my beliefs and I was forced to resign as a magistrate. The Courts upheld this decision and I was not even allowed to have my case heard before the Court of Appeal. I support Mr McFarlane’s appeal and hope that the case is allowed to be heard by the Courts and is given a fair hearing in the Court of Appeal.”


Shirley Chaplin, the Christian nurse at the centre of the Exeter NHS Confirmation Cross Row said: “I have just lost my case in the Employment Tribunal. It was held that I had not been discriminated against, even though I was not allowed to wear my cross whilst other colleagues were allowed to wear their religious symbols. I hope that the judges make it clear that Christians are to be protected from discrimination, just like anybody else.”

Their intervention, backed by Lord Carey, follows a series of cases in which Christians have lost their jobs after seeking to express their faith. Mrs Chaplin, 55, who lives near Exeter and who had worn the cross every day for 38 years, described the decision as a "very poor day" for Christians in the workplace.

The Master of the Rolls is the second most senior judge in England and Wales, after the Lord Chief Justice. The Master of the Rolls, a position which dates back to the 13th century, is the presiding officer of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal.

Lord Carey will use his statement to challenge the Court of Appeal over the making of a series of "disturbing" judgements and being responsible for some "dangerous" reasoning which could, if taken to extremes, lead to Christians being banned from the workplace. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1991 to 2002, believes that court rulings on the wearing of a cross show a lack of understanding of Christian beliefs – he argues that the cross is often worn as a sign of a Christian’s fidelity to Jesus.

In his ruling in the case of Lillian Ladele, Lord Neuberger said that it was a legitimate aim of Islington council in north London, Miss Ladele's employers, to have a policy "requiring all its employers to act in a way which does not discriminate against others". Lillian Ladele was, therefore, discriminated against because her view was seen as discriminatory

Lord Carey highlights that in a world of conflicting rights, both need to be considered and accommodated. It is therefore not acceptable that the Christian view is considered “discriminatory” by the courts, with Christians likened to “bigots”.


The ruling also stated that “Ms Ladele's objection [to performing civil partnerships] was based on her view of marriage, which was not a core part of her religion.” Lord Carey and others would like to challenge how such a conclusion was drawn and whether it is the place of judges to comment on the Christian faith in this way.

Mr McFarlane will be represented in court on Thursday by Paul Diamond, the leading religious rights barrister, and he is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, which seeks to promote religious freedom and, particularly, to protect Christians and Christianity.

Senior Muslims also believe that Christians in Britain receive a bad deal. Dr Taj Hargey, the Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, wrote last week: "Christianity is under siege in this country. Britain's national religion has never been so marginalised and derided by the public institutions that should be defending it."

ENDS.

Andrea Minichiello-Williams (director Christian Legal Centre): 0771 259 1164.



© CCFON 16th April 2010

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