A Christian counsellor who was sacked because he did not want to give homosexual couples sex advice has been refused permission to have his case heard by the Court of Appeal.
Gary McFarlane, who lost an earlier appeal last year, says that the relationship counselling service Relate sacked him after he said he could not do anything that would encourage homosexual sex.
Speaking after yesterday’s decision Mr McFarlane, who was willing for other counsellors to offer same-sex couples psychosexual therapy, said that his treatment was “without a doubt” a contemporary example of Christians being persecuted in the UK.
Mr McFarlane added: “This is a sad day for our society which I believe is on a slippery slope in terms of balancing competing interests”.
The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) was supporting Mr McFarlane’s case and has also expressed grave concern at yesterday’s decision.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the CLC, said: “Mr McFarlane simply wanted his religious beliefs to be accommodated by his employer, which in the specific facts of the case was not unreasonable.”
Yesterday’s decision by Lord Justice Laws is likely to increase concern among Christians that there is a hierarchy of rights which leave them at the bottom of the pile.
These concerns were echoed by Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, in an article he wrote for the Daily Telegraph.
In the article Dr Nazir-Ali said: “Will there be, once again, a religious bar to holding office?
“We have already had a rash of cases involving magistrates unable to serve on the bench because of their Christian beliefs, registrars losing their jobs because they cannot, in conscience, officiate at civil partnerships, paediatricians unable to serve on adoption panels… Will this trickle gradually become a flood”?
Earlier this month Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, called for religious liberty cases to be heard by a panel of judges with a “proven sensitivity to religious issues”.
His request was rejected by Lord Justice Laws.