The Freedom of Christians to express their Faith in the UK
|GK Chesterton, 1874-1936, writer:
Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.
Is this just as relevant today?
Great Britain is still supposed to be a Christian country. 'As part of the Coronation ceremony, the monarch swears an oath to "maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England" before being crowned by the senior cleric of the Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury. All clergy of the Church swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch before taking office'.
This means that the core of our nation is still Christian based although in recent years it has become more obvious that this appears to have become undermined and our Freedom of Expression is not what it used to be.
Where do we stand today?
I am a Christian, I have been for twenty years and gradually over that time I've seen other faiths cry out for equal rights in this country. I have no problem with that, we all have the right to our religious beliefs; however, it seems that the rights of Christians are being walked all over in the process.
What I want people to understand is that being a Christian isn't an additive to who I am, it is who I am and I don't see why I and those like me should be discriminated against any more than someone who, for example, is gay etc. Everyone in this country is supposed to have the right to religious freedom, which means that as long as it doesn't breach the law, we should all have the right to read, write and discuss anything that pertains to our religious beliefs if we so wish. Shouldn't this also be the same in how we live our lives providing, of course, we aren't using our religion to hurt others? I don't believe that any religion should be used as an excuse to kill people; certainly, Christianity, like many other religions has been used in this way. In our everyday lives, however, we should be respected for what we believe in as much as, for example, a gay person is respected for who they are.
I use this as an example because it seems to be one of the most contentious battles of this era, not the only one though when it comes to the rights of Christians in this country. I have found a few examples and hope that people will see that this may be a balancing act sometimes but I don't see why my rights as a Christian should be seen as insignificant.
A few years ago Nadia Eweida was told by British Airways that she wasn't able to wear a cross to work. She'd always worn it, however, BA brought in new uniforms and stated that it wasn't part of their new uniform and she could no longer wear it. She took it to court and lost her fight in the UK but won on an appeal at the European court of human rights.
A nurse who had worn a cross under the same circumstances was told that she had to remove it because it was a health and safety risk, the same as any other jewellery. Here I can see the point of being asked to remove it; I wouldn't want to put anyone's life at risk just to show my religious beliefs. We have the right to show our beliefs but not to the endangerment of others. Nadia's wearing of her Cross was no danger to others so there seemed no reason for her not to wear it.
A Christian couple in Cornwall set up a Bed and Breakfast. When a gay couple tried to book a double room there in 2011, they turned them away because they weren't married. Peter and Hazelmary Bull believe in quite strict rules about no sex before marriage. They said they would have turned any other unmarried couple away also. This place was not only a B&B but their home also. They said they weren't discriminating specifically against the two men because they were gay. They were sued, had to pay £3'600 and told that they couldn't turn people away, on grounds that they were breaking these people's human rights. What I want to ask is, what about the people who owned the B&B's right to the faith they believe in?
Another example of this sort of situation was the story of Registrar Lillian Ladele. During her time with Islington Council, the law was brought in to make same-sex marriage legal. She asked, because of her faith, not to marry couples in this situation. She was told she would have to marry these couples or lose her job. She took it to the court of appeal. When she took this job, this law wasn't in place so the issue wasn't there, surely there must be a law to protect those of us who have certain beliefs, especially as this wasn't an issue when she took the job so, therefore, wasn't written into her contract. At her appeal, the judges turned her down stating this:
'The right to express a strong Christian faith must take second place to the rights of homosexuals under Labour's equality laws'.
'The prohibition of discrimination by the 2007 Regulations takes precedence over any right which a person would otherwise have by virtue of his or her religious belief or faith, to practice discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation,'.
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Lillian Ladele had attempted to swap shifts with others so she didn't have to perform these ceremonies but this wasn't enough.
'Christian pressure groups said the ruling could see traditional Christians banned from some jobs. 'Civil partnerships were not being discriminated against, they were able to be performed by other registrars. Lilian Ladele has been discriminated against because of her Christian convictions,' said a spokesman for the Christian Legal Centre. 'The effect of this judgment will lead to religious bars on employment
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1236042/Christian-registrar-loses-sackin...
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At the end of the day, it's not an issue about whether these people are right but it's about what they believe. Therefore, surely they have a right to protection under the Freedom of Religion. Apparently, this Freedom of Religion no longer exists as a stand-alone act; it has been merged into the European Freedom of Human Rights Act, which is complicated. Therefore, it seems, that as the profile of other religions in this country has risen recently, it seems the core faith of the UK has been put down and undermined. I wonder now, as we come out of the European Union whether we will begin to make our own rules again. Will these rules include the Freedom of Christians to stand up for what they believe in?