Lord Alton: ‘We ignore workplace religious discrimination at our peril’

The erosion of religious freedom in the workplace will leave us all worse off, a prominent Roman Catholic Peer has warned.

Lord Alton of Liverpool believes progress has been made in tackling other forms of discrimination at work, but said “there is still a blind spot when it comes to religion”.

His comments follow the findings of a survey on people’s experiences and attitudes towards faith in the workplace by the Catholic Union, of which the Peer is a former vice-president.

Blind spot

Almost a third of Catholic Union members and supporters who took part in the survey said they felt disadvantaged at work because of their faith – 73 per cent of which occurred in the public sector.

Nearly a half of respondents said they felt unable to speak openly about their faith with colleagues.

And 41 per cent of survey participants did not believe religious discrimination was taken as seriously as discrimination at work against other protected characteristics..

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Equality Act 2010 FAQs
Everyone in Britain is protected by the Act. The “protected characteristics” under the Act are (in alphabetical order):

Gender reassignment
Marriage and civil partnership
Pregnancy and maternity
Religion and belief
Sexual orientation

The survey results have been submitted to an inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is investigating the “extent to which human rights are protected and respected in the workplace”.


Lord Alton commented: “People of all faiths should not be expected to shed or conceal an essential part of who they are when they go to their place of work.”

He added: “Religious freedom is so often the canary in the mine for many of the freedoms we enjoy.

“Ignore discrimination or prejudice and it readily morphs into persecution and, then, in some parts of the world into appalling crimes against humanity. We all lose out if religious freedom is eroded.”

Kenneth Ferguson

In July 2021, an Employment Tribunal ruled that Kenneth Ferguson was unfairly dismissed by multimillion-pound grant-maker The Robertson Trust and subjected to religious discrimination by the Trust and its Chair, Shonaig Macpherson.

The Tribunal found Mr Ferguson, an elder of Stirling Free Church, was unfairly dismissed in March 2020 because of his mainstream Christian views on marriage.

Welcoming the ruling at the time, The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Simon Calvert, said: “This is a just outcome and one which sounds a warning to those who think they can mistreat Christians in the workplace.”

The CI supported Mr Ferguson throughout the battle, underwriting his legal costs via its Legal Defence Fund.

Also see:

CI case: Trust ‘shunned’ and ‘humiliated’ CEO over church’s marriage views

Robertson Trust accused of “sham” disciplinary hearing before dismissing pro-marriage CEO

Tribunal hears Robertson Trust chairwoman was ‘on the warpath’ over pro-marriage church

Court blasts Blackpool Council for discriminating against Christians

Franklin Graham attacked by council over biblical views on sexuality

Govt raises free speech concerns over Franklin Graham ‘no-platforming’

Cancelling Franklin Graham ‘antithetical to free speech’, say church leaders

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