A senior academic from the University of Oxford has said courts in the West are putting equality issues before the right to religious freedom.
Professor Roger Trigg, a leading figure in the University’s philosophy and theology faculties, made the claim after studying recent cases in the UK, USA, Canada and mainland Europe.
He identified a trend towards curtailing religious freedom in favour of other social priorities such as non-discrimination.
The case of Lillian Ladele – a Christian registrar who was disciplined by Islington Council because of her objections to civil partnerships – is specifically highlighted in the professor’s new book ‘Equality, Freedom and Religion’.
Professor Trigg said: “A case is before the European Court of Human Rights about a civil registrar from Islington who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies because of her religious beliefs.
“It should have been easy to find a solution here by giving these ceremonies to one of her colleagues, but the need to respect the right to equality trumped the freedom of religious convictions in this instance.”
He continued: “In recent years there has been a clear trend for courts in Europe and North America to prioritise equality and non-discrimination above religion, placing the right to religious freedom in danger.”
“No State can be a functioning democracy unless it allows its citizens to manifest their beliefs about what is most important in life.”
“I am calling for these rights to be balanced.
“There should not be a hierarchy of rights, but it should be possible to take account of all of them in some way. ‘Reasonable accommodation’ ought to be the standard.”
Last year, the head of a European think-tank warned that churchgoers in Europe were “heading for a bloodless persecution” at the hands of secularists.
Dr Gudrun Kugler warned that “advocates” were needed to keep religious freedom alive, and that church leaders and church attenders needed to “speak out more clearly and boldly when they see religious freedom being undermined”.