Christians in employment in the UK will no longer be able to act according to their consciences and the rights of homosexual couples trump those of people of faith.
This is the clear message from the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling issued today.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has today ruled that Gary McFarlane, a Christian counsellor who worked for Relate, was not unfairly dismissed or discriminated against when he was sacked for his orthodox views on sexual relationships which meant that he could not give an unequivocal commitment to help same-sex couples improve their sex lives.
The 48 year old father of two, who is also a solicitor and a former elder of a large multicultural church in Bristol, believes the Bible teaches that same-sex sexual practice is contrary to biblical teaching and therefore that he should do nothing which endorses this activity. Mr McFarlane had no objection to others in Relate counselling couples needing advice on same-sex activity, but for him it was a simple issue of conscience.
After managers at Relate made the decision to sack Mr McFarlane in March 2008, and after internal procedures had been exhausted, Mr McFarlane took his case to the Employment Tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and discrimination contrary to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. In January 2009 the Tribunal ruled that he had not been discriminated against or unfairly dismissed. Mr McFarlane then appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which ruled today to dismiss Mr McFarlane’s appeal.
Mr 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 be free to exercise legitimate rights”
Mr McFarlane was supported in his appeal by the Christian Legal Centre which instructed leading human rights barrister, Paul Diamond, and Mr Thomas Cordrey to represent him.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of CLC said: “Mr McFarlane was quite prepared for other counsellors to help same-sex couples in psychosexual counselling. He simply asked that on the rare occasions he was asked to do the same, his employer roster another counsellor to handle the case. This would have respected both the best interests of the counsellor and client”.
“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. The effect of this judgment is to rule out any expression of deeply-held conscience, even when the expression is limited to a very reasonable, practicable and sensible request to be assigned work such that worker and client are best served and that the work is tenable for the worker. This ruling goes against all notion of religious conscience protection and also against common sense”.
“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.”
“Mr McFarlane will be appealing this decision. We will take this as far as is necessary, even if we have to go all the way to the Supreme Court and then Europe. We will press on until justice prevails”