It’s an extraordinary breakthrough – a remarkable opportunity for the Alliance Defense Fund to stand in defense of religious freedom in the United Kingdom in cases that – if they are decided the wrong way – could have a negative impact on your religious liberty here in the United States.
On August 12, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) granted ADF permission to intervene in four rights of conscience (“freedom to disagree”) cases originating in the UK. In two of those crucial cases, former Slovakian Prime Minister Jan Carnogursky (now a respected attorney) was given permission to intervene alongside ADF. Carnogursky knows his subject well: in the 1980s, he was imprisoned by the Communists for his religious and political views.
The court combined the four cases – involving British government employees facing unlawful discrimination because of their Christian beliefs – into two: Eweida and Chaplin v. United Kingdom and Ladele and McFarlane v. United Kingdom. The ECHR agreed to review both cases on appeal, which means its final decision could potentially impact all Council of Europe member states – and the U.S., where many courts now cite foreign precedents in their decisions.
“Christian employees should not be singled out for discrimination,” says ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “No one should have to hide their faith or act contrary to it, especially when public employees of other faiths are accommodated but Christians are not. That type of intolerance is inconsistent with the values that civilized communities should have.”
“Sadly,” he adds, “Americans have become accustomed to lawsuits like this within the U.S. Just as ADF fights for religious liberty in those cases, we’re also committed to doing the same abroad so that bad European precedents don’t spread further in Europe, then across the sea to America.”
One case, Eweida and Chaplin v. United Kingdom, involves Christian women told to cover up or remove cross necklaces. Nadia Eweida worked for British Airways at Heathrow Airport in London. Shirley Chaplin served as a nurse at a government hospital. In both their workplaces, employees of other faiths were given room for similar expressions of faith in what they wore.
Ladele and McFarlane v. United Kingdom involves two Christians fired for refusing to engage in acts contrary to their faith. Lillian Ladele, a marriage registrar for Islington Council in London, was disciplined for asking to be exempt from registering same-sex civil partnerships. (A tribunal strongly ruled in favor of Ladele, represented by ADF ally The Christian Institute, but the decision was reversed on appeal.) Gary McFarlane had successfully counseled both opposite- and same-sex couples for a state-run counseling service, but was fired for declining to provide same-sex couples with psycho-sexual therapy to “improve” their sexual activity.
Barrister Paul Diamond, one of more than 2,000 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is lead counsel in the Chaplin and McFarlane cases. ADF-allied attorneys Ruth Nordstrom and Mattia Ferrero represent other groups allowed by the court to intervene. ADF has also applied to represent 20 members of European Parliament in the Eweida and Chaplin case and nine members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in the Ladele and McFarlane case.
Please be in special prayer for all the clients, attorneys, and allies involved in these cases, which will surely set vital precedents for religious freedom in Europe… and perhaps in America, too.
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