Religious freedoms should not be relegated below other rights, a Church of Ireland bishop has said.
Bishop Kenneth Good warned that as values of pluralism and the promotion of equality and diversity are “considered to be paramount”, religion can be reduced to simply a personal matter.
Speaking at a Synod meeting, Bishop Good said: “In the process it can happen that religious freedoms and religious rights can be trumped by other freedoms and rights that appear to merit a higher priority”.
But Bishop Good commented: “Religious freedom has long been recognised as one of the most basic and important rights, and it cannot be automatically overridden when it clashes with other rights.”
He also said: “It will take some time for us to get the weighting between religious and other rights more wisely and more finely balanced.
“During this process, it is likely that the case for religious freedom and rights will need to be argued with considerable effectiveness.”
In a case which has been described as a clash between religious rights and sexual orientation rights, The Christian Institute is defending a Christian registrar who was disciplined in England for her views on same-sex civil partnerships.
In March the UK Supreme Court refused permission for an appeal in the case, involving Lillian Ladele.
At the time Miss Ladele said she was “disappointed” and felt her religious rights had been “trampled by another set of rights”.
She is now taking her legal fight to Europe.
Last year The Christian Institute published a report, entitled Marginalising Christians, that showed Christians are being sidelined by a raft of equality and diversity laws which leave them the first to be punished and the last to be protected.
The report catalogues numerous cases of Christians being sidelined by public bodies, popular media, employers and barriers to public funding.
Commenting on the report, The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “Many Christians feel marginalised in modern Britain.
“Whether it’s a Christian nurse being suspended for offering to pray for a patient’s recovery, or whether it’s a Christian couple being prosecuted for a crime because they criticised Islam, believers feel targeted by the ‘equality police’.
“A stream of equality and diversity laws have failed to reasonably accommodate the rights of religious believers. Christians in particular feel like they have been pushed to the back of the queue.”