Christians in Britain should leave their faith at home or accept that they might have to get another job, a Government lawyer has told the European Court of Human Rights.
The comment came as the Court heard the cases of four Christians, including that of registrar Lillian Ladele who was disciplined for her stance on civil partnerships. All four say the UK Government failed to protect their religious liberty.
Dinah Rose QC, representing Miss Ladele, told the Court that her client had been used as “an instrument” of social change by her former employer Islington Borough Council.
She warned the judges that the submission from the United Kingdom’s Government entails “permitting Islington to treat Miss Ladele as an instrument for the propagation of its public message.
“And we submit that to treat a person, an individual, as a means and not an aim in themselves, is fundamentally incompatible with individual human dignity and incompatible with convention rights.”
James Eadie QC, acting on behalf of the Government, argued that the rights of the four Christians were only protected in private, and that they could not “insist on being able to manifest their beliefs in any way they choose”.
He argued that a Christian “under difficulty” is not discriminated against if they have the choice of “resigning and moving to a different job”.
A decision is not expected in Miss Ladele’s case for several months. Her legal case is being supported by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.
Two of the other cases which were heard yesterday involve Christians who wanted to wear a cross at work.
Nadia Eweida wanted to wear a small cross on the outside of her uniform, but bosses at British Airways ordered her to hide it.
And Shirley Chaplin was told by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust that she could not wear a cross around her neck while she worked on hospital wards.
The other case involved Gary McFarlane, a Christian counsellor who was sacked because he did not want to give sex advice to homosexual couples.