The former Bishop of Oxford has suggested there should be “reasonable accommodation” of religious belief in law, during a House of Lords debate.
Lord Harries initiated the debate on the role of belief in public life, in which he referred to recent cases in Europe where human rights appear to have clashed with “fundamental” religious views.
He said: “My own view is that human rights should prevail in areas of dispute but that the law should be formulated and enforced with what the Equality and Human Rights Commission once termed ‘reasonable accommodation’.
“That seems to be in the spirit of the culture of the United Kingdom”.
He maintained that there are certain “fundamentals” on which there can be “no compromise”, but on some issues “there ought to be some scope for latitude”.
In Northern Ireland, an MLA is looking to introduce a ‘conscience clause’ into law, in light of recent legal action against a Christian-run bakery which refused to provide a pro-gay marriage campaign cake.
Paul Givan wants to amend equality legislation through his private member’s Bill, in order to provide clarity in the law.
Lawyers for Ashers Baking Company deny that they breached any laws, but a conscience clause would prevent similar cases being brought to court in the future.
The Deputy President of the UK’s Supreme Court has also suggested that the law should reasonably accommodate people with religious beliefs.
Speaking earlier this year, Lady Hale said, “it is not difficult to see why the Christians feel that their religious beliefs are not being sufficiently respected.”
She 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?”