Gay Marriage Trumps Freedom of Conscience in European Court

Standing Against Christian Persecution

Gay marriage trumped freedom of conscience in the European Court of Human Rights yesterday.

The Court handed down rulings on four contentious cases which had been brought before it by British citizens. In three of the cases, it ruled with the British government and against the citizens.

Here’s how it went:

1. British airways employee Nadia Ewelda won the right to wear a cross around her neck to work without being fired. Part of the reasoning was that other British Airways employees were allowed to wear religious symbols of other faiths, including turbans and scarves.

2. A British nurse lost the right to wear a cross around her neck to work. The Court based this ruling on the idea that the cross might somehow pose a job hazard by accidentally touching an open wound or something.

3. Two other British citizens, a registrar and a relationship counselor, lost their cases. They had been fired for refusing, on the basis of their religious beliefs, to participate in civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples.

Religious groups are hailing these rulings as “victories,” based on the lone case that allowed a flight attendant to wear a cross to work. This which confounds me. Christians consistently lose in the courts, as the many atheists who buzz by this blog every time I write on the subject try to remind us, and I think these rulings are no exception to that.

One of the things that struck me about these rulings is that they were so specific. Evidently, the European Court of Human Rights does not rule on broad issues of law in the same manner that our Supreme Court does. These rulings were basically, “We uphold this case, but not this.” If the court ruled on principles of law rather than just the specific cases, it didn’t come through in the news stories I read.

I’m not sure what that means in terms of the scope of these rulings. If these truly are specific rulings on specific cases and not on broad points of law, then that could be significant in terms of impact. I’m not saying that’s how it is. I don’t know.

I may not understand the scope of these rulings, but I do know that they were not a “victory” for Christians or freedom of conscience. I also think they were a harbinger of what’s to come for all of us.

Advocates of gay marriage here in the United States are quick to say that re-writing the legal definition of marriage will not impact religious liberty, that no one will be forced to perform gay marriages if it is against their conscience. This clearly flies in the face of the collective experience throughout the Western world.

So far as I know, in every country that has legalized gay marriage, or, as in the case with this ruling, civil partnerships, it is just a matter of time, and usually not much time, before people are losing their jobs because they do not want to participate in performing these marriages.

The Los Angeles Times article describing these court cases reads in part:

By Emily Alpert
January 15, 2013, 1:14 p.m.
A Christian employee was wronged when British Airways insisted she remove the small cross she wore around her neck, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday.

But judges rejected claims by three other British Christians who claimed they had been discriminated against in the workplace, including two who had refused to provide their services to couples of the same sex.

Religious freedom is “one of the foundations of pluralistic, democratic societies,” the European court wrote, but religious freedom can nonetheless be restricted where it “impinges on the rights of others.”

Judges decided 5-2 in favor of Nadia Eweida, who was sent home without pay for violating the British Airways uniform code more than six years ago. At the time, its rules banned any visible jewelry. Eweida returned to work several months later after the company changed its policies, but continued to press her case against the British government for failing to protect her freedom of religion.

The European court found that British courts had failed to strike a fair balance between her rights and British Airways’ wish to “project a certain corporate image.” Other employees had already been allowed to wear other kinds of religious apparel, including turbans and head scarves, without any impact on the British Airways brand, it added. The court ordered the British government to award Eweida more than $2,600 in damages and $40,000 for expenses.

“I feel vindicated, that Christians have been vindicated, both here and in Europe as well,” Eweida told the BBC after the decision was issued, a cross visible around her neck.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he was “delighted” by Tuesday’s decision, a rare bit of British government praise for the European court. The ruling was also cheered by rights groups.

“Nadia Eweida wasn’t hurting anyone and was perfectly capable of doing her job whilst wearing a small cross,” said Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil liberties group Liberty. “British courts lost their way in her case and Strasbourg has actually acted more in keeping with our traditions of tolerance.”

Religious conservatives were also pleased Eweida had triumphed, but their enthusiasm was dampened by the fact that the European judges turned down the three other discrimination claims. Although it sided with Eweida, the court said a British hospital was justified in barring a nurse from wearing a crucifix because it could touch an open wound or a patient might pull on it. Protecting health and safety were more weighty reasons to ban the cross than buffing a corporate image, it concluded.

Judges also rejected the claims of a relationship counselor and a former registrar who balked at providing their services to same-sex couples. The counselor was fired for violating company policies that he had agreed to; the registrar was disciplined and warned that if she did not perform civil partnerships, she would be terminated.

Christian groups argued that other registrars could have performed the service. “What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold,” said Mike Judge, spokesman for the Christian Institute, in a statement Tuesday. (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: We Must Fight Persecution With Knowledge, Prayer, Courage and Unity

Standing Against Christian Persecution

Joanna Bogle is an author, journalist, and broadcaster living in London. She served for some years as a London Borough councillor and has also worked as a research assistant for Members of Parliament. She writes for various newspapers and magazines in Britain, America, and Australia, including Britain’s Catholic Times, and America’s National Catholic Register.

She is, in short, well-informed and well-spoken; a person that serious people take seriously. She has her finger on the pulse of European Christianity, particularly in the UK. When she says that persecution of Christians is in our near future, the statement carries weight.

That makes her recent article A Frightening Chat With a French Colleague an important read for all of us. Ms Bogle and her French colleague agree that the legal and social discrimination against Christians in Western Europe are growing. They also agree that the situation will probably worsen in the future.

Her fear that many Christians will fall away when the trials come are, I believe, accurate. I agree with her conclusion that, if we are to stand, we will need “a real knowledge of the Faith, a sincere and deep prayer-life, courage, and unity” with other Christians.

We must start standing up for our faith and we must stand together while we do it. I also think that we should pray for ourselves and for one another that we will each have the courage to stand for Jesus today and in the future.

I can think of no better time for us to begin this than now, in the second week of the Year of Faith.

Her article says in part:

A frightening chat with a French colleague.

We last met, very agreeably, in 2010 during the Pope’s visit to Britain which he was covering for a French Catholic newspaper. Late at night, after that glorious vigil in Hyde Park, we gathered at the house of friends, over glasses of wine and bowls of soup and slices of buttered toast, with lots of talk and a sense of rejoicing as the Papal visit was going so well and writing a memorable chapter in British history.

Today, still much talk and still a rejoicing in our shared faith and all that it means…but a gloomy sense of foreboding. Back in 2010, we knew full well that things were getting bad for Christians generally – that was why it was so good and necessary that the Pope’s visit lifted all our hearts and encouraged us – and now, two years on, things are measurably worse. Jean was in London to report on anti-Christian discrimination in Britain (problems over wearing a cross at work, nurses told they must take part in abortions, and the whole same-sex “marriage” horror, and so on). I had no good news to tell him, and he had none to tell me.

In France, as in Britain, the drive for same-sex “marriage” is going fiercely forward. Evangelicals and Catholics are united in opposition but face lethargy, confusion (“Surely if two people love each other, it doesn’t matter what sex they are…” etc), ignorance (“I can’t see there’ll be any problems!”) and prejudice. People who, ten years ago, would not have accepted that marriage could mean anything other than the union of a man and a woman now feel obliged to say that they think same-sex unions are really quite normal and right. It is harder and harder to achieve an open discussion as many people feel intimidated: a teacher, a social worker, a public official, can face sudden unemployment and possibly social disgrace for saying something deemed to be unacceptable and incorrect on this issue.
The conversation turned, as it so often does these days, to the future persecution of the Church. Nothing meriting the word “persecution” at the moment, we agreed, but young Catholics in their twenties assume it will arrive in their lifetime. It’s as if the New Movements and things like World Youth Day are boosting and helping them, urging them to get trained and ready and spiritually alert for tough times to come.
It will not be fun for any of us – those who talk eagerly about “a bit of suffering doing us good” or imagine fighting gloriously for noble traditions under a splendid banner may well be the first to succumb to pressure to abandon the Church…tough times call for real faith and love, and not for grand-standing. The need is for a real knowledge of the Faith, a sincere and deep prayer-life, courage, and unity.(Read more here.)

British Government to Christians: Leave Your Faith at Home or Lose Your Job

 “Leave your faith at home.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that. It’s right up there with “Separation of Church and State,” which a good number of ignorant souls seem to think is written down somewhere in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Of course, this particular time, the “Leave your faith at home” claptrap is not coming from an irate, muddle-headed advocate for abortion on demand or some such. It’s straight out of the mouth of a lawyer who is speaking for the Government of one of the great Western democracies. This attorney is representing Great Britain in the European Court of Human Rights against four of her own citizens.

The British government’s ignoble position is that its citizens should be willing to forego simple expressions of their faith such as wearing a cross on a necklace to work. If they aren’t willing to do this, then they have no right to complain when this costs them their jobs.

That is why I’m asking all Christians to begin wearing a cross, outside their clothes, every day. We need a visible, non-violent way to stand together as Christians. 

Join the discussion in the comments section on the best way to do this. All constructive ideas are welcome. 

The article describing the British Government’s position reads in part:

Govt lawyer: Christians should leave faith at

home or resign

Wed, 5 Sep 2012

Christians in Britain should leave their faith at home or accept that they might have to get another job, a Government lawyer has told the European Court of Human Rights.

The comment came as the Court heard the cases of four Christians, including that of registrar Lillian Ladele who was disciplined for her stance on civil partnerships. All four say the UK Government failed to protect their religious liberty. (Read more here.)

 

 

 

Christian Persecution: In the West, Where the War Is Forced Upon Us

Hearings on a discrimination suit filed by four British Christians against their government began September 4 in the European Court of Human RightsThe Christians say that they have lost their jobs because they would not comply with demands that they violate their Christian faith.

Their complaints range from a woman who was fired because she wore a cross on a necklace to work, to a registrar who lost her job because she refused to conduct same-sex cvil partnerships. These people have been the object of ridicule for filing these claims. But they have persisted, even in the face of predictions that they will ultimately lose the case. This article from The Telegraph gives more details:

David Barrett

By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent

9:00PM GMT 10 Mar 2012

In a highly significant move, ministers will fight a case at the European Court of Human Rights in which two British women will seek to establish their right to display the cross.

It is the first time that the Government has been forced to state whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the symbol at work.

A document seen by The Sunday Telegraph discloses that ministers will argue that because it is not a “requirement” of the Christian faith, employers can ban the wearing of the cross and sack workers who insist on doing so.

The Government’s position received an angry response last night from prominent figures including Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

He accused ministers and the courts of “dictating” to Christians and said it was another example of Christianity becoming sidelined in official life. (Read more here.)

It appears that Britain has crossed the line into active legal discrimination against people of faith. This lawsuit and the attitude of intolerance toward Christians that caused it should be harbingers for the rest of us.

Violent persecution of a group of people doesn’t spring fully grown from nowhere. It grows from smaller things and lays down roots of acceptance in our minds and hearts in an incremental, almost invisible fashion.

Christians in much of the world are subjected to the brutality of violent discrimination that often approaches genocide. We haven’t gotten to violent persecution here in the West. But I believe we are moving in that direction.

Much of Western society today hovers somewhere between openly accepted verbal harassment of their Christian majorities and active legal discrimination against them. Majority populations have been subjected to active discrimination and violent persecution by a minority which has control of the governing apparatus of the country before. South Africa is one recent example.

Here in America, people of faith in general and Christians in particular have been subjected to a barrage of lawsuits seeking to wipe all mention of faith out of our public life. These lawsuits force us to chisel God’s name off our monuments, take down religious symbols from our parks and public facilities and ban all mention of the Almighty at public events such as football games. Most recently, there has been a move to do away with the National Day of Prayer and to expunge “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

The HHS Mandate and lawsuits trying to force religious ministries to refer women for abortions have broadened these attacks from a debate about monuments, public prayers and slogans. They are now attacking the Church itself.

Meanwhile, verbal agitation aimed at silencing individual citizens becomes more strident and widespread. Private conversations between two people in line at a grocery store can be hijacked by the Christian-basher standing behind them who rudely interjects his (it seems almost always to be a “him.”) version of the usual atheist canards attacking their faith. The sense of entitlement these people seem to feel to harass, insult and bully Christians is truly mind-boggling. Christians often find themselves falling silent about their faith simply because they get worn out by the constant hassle and circular arguments these people force on them.

This is harassment. The names that Christians are called and the way that Christianity is attacked in some of the media has become so extreme that it can fairly be called hate speech. This is not benign. It is Christian baiting and it’s time we called it that. 

We are in a plunge downward here in America. Yesterday’s outrageous insults against Christians become today’s accepted beliefs. The line between an aggressive secularism and active legal discrimination was crossed with the HHS Mandate.

In Britain, this has evidently reached the point that individual Christians face loss of their jobs for something so small as wearing a cross on a necklace. Other Christians lose their jobs if they refuse to participate in activities that violate their faith.

It isn’t such a big step in a violent world from social bullying and legal discrimination to violent persecution. In fact, the legal apparatus, if it becomes draconian enough, actually supports and protects the persecutors.

I hope that the European Court of Human Rights rules in favor of these four Christian petitioners. But even if it does, to paraphrase a line from an old Star Trek episode, the war is still forced upon us. A positive ruling in the four Christians’ favor would not turn back the tide of Christian-baiting and the constant push for more discriminatory laws against people of faith.

If the court rules against these Christians, the matter becomes even more urgent. A negative ruling will open the door for what almost certainly will be oppressive laws that force Christians to chose on a daily basis between Jesus and their jobs and eventually, their freedom.

I quoted Vijay Ooman, of Nigeria in an earlier post. What he said is worth a second read:

When we hear and read of how a Christian nation, founded by those who left Europe because of the persecution they faced, has today abandoned that call, its not only sad but pathetic.

Can any of the western countries ever be called as a Christian nation any more? It is no different than a child denying his own parents and telling the world ‘ I dont know who they are”…

It is time the Churches in the west turned back to profess and be the witnesses they once were..

Based on the letters I get, I think a lot of Christians around the world are watching us here in America as we fight for our basic freedom of religion. American Christians need to start standing up for Jesus in their daily lives. If this misuse of the law to force us to violate our faith continues, we need to be prepared to practice non-violent civil disobedience. After all, don’t we sing in our churches that we are “soldiers of the cross?”


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