MPs: Equality body’s defence of religious liberty ‘long overdue’

An equality body’s recent move to defend religious liberty of Christians is “long overdue recognition”, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

Last week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission admitted British courts should have done more to protect Christians affected by equality laws.

The body announced it would be intervening in four legal cases heading for Europe.

MPs expressed their support for the intervention in an Early Day Motion (EDM) proposed by Gary Streeter MP last week.


The motion said the intervention “marks an important development in relation to a better understanding of the role of faith in public life”.

It went on to welcome “the Commission’s advocacy for reasonable accommodation in the workplace as an acknowledgement of the place of conscientious objection for those with religious belief”.

Last week the commission said judges interpreted laws too narrowly, and set the bar too high for Christians to prove discrimination.


The commission also said employers should do more to “reasonably accommodate” employees with religious beliefs – just like they do with disabled staff.

Humanist and homosexual groups reacted strongly against the Commission’s move to defend religious liberty of Christians.

But the intervention has been welcomed by Christian groups who have long been concerned that equality laws are marginalising Christians.


The intervention marks a considerable shift in emphasis at the commission, which has in the past appeared to be hostile to religious liberty cases brought by Christians.

In one damaging case a lawyer for the commission suggested that Christian foster carers are a risk because they may ‘infect’ children.

In another instance, the commission funded a case against Christian B&B owners who restricted double rooms to married couples. When the commission won, its lawyers demanded a harsher penalty against the Christians.


The commission’s John Wadham said their intervention into the four cases “would encourage judges to interpret the law more broadly and more clearly to the benefit of people who are religious and those who are not”.

He added: “The idea of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person’s needs has served disability discrimination law well for decades. It seems reasonable that a similar concept could be adopted to allow someone to manifest their religious beliefs.”

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