The Deputy President of the UK’s Supreme Court has suggested that the law should ‘reasonably accommodate’ a Christian’s beliefs.
Baroness Hale said it is “fascinating that a country with an established church can be less respectful of religious feelings than one without”.
But in November Lady Hale was one of the judges who dismissed an appeal by Christian B&B owners who only allow married couples to share a double bed. The case was backed by The Christian Institute.
The Bulls had asked the Supreme Court for a “reasonable accommodation” of their religious beliefs but five judges including Lady Hale said the policy amounted to sexual orientation discrimination.
Speaking to the Yale Law School, she justified her decision claiming that if “you go into the market place you cannot pick and choose which laws you will obey and which you will not”.
She also discussed a series of other high profile cases including that of Lillian Ladele, also backed by The Christian Institute, who claimed religious discrimination after being forced out of her job over her conscientious objection to same-sex civil partnerships.
England “is a paradoxical country when it comes to religion”, Lady Hale commented. Despite 26 Church of England Bishops sitting in the House of Lords, she claimed it was “one of the least religious countries in Western Europe”.
“Politicians are not encouraged to wear their religion, if any, on their sleeves.”
She added that “it is not difficult to see why the Christians feel that their religious beliefs are not being sufficiently respected.”
Lady Hale argued: “Instead of all the technicalities which EU law has produced, would it not be a great deal simpler if we required the providers of employment, goods and services to make reasonable accommodation for the religious beliefs of others?”
Explaining the differences between European Union discrimination laws and the European Convention on Human Rights, she said the latter allowed courts to better balance the competing rights of individuals and the community, while accommodating religious beliefs.
Lillian Ladele did, however, take her case in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and still did not win.
She was denied an appeal by the European Court of Human Rights last year, in a move described as a “sad day for liberty of conscience”.