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Andrew Lansley: Government Was Right To Challenge 'Christian Discrimination' Case At European Court

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The Leader of the House of Commons has insisted the Government was right to contest a European legal challenge over religious freedom after four British Christians took their fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

The four claim they were discriminated against because of their faith but cabinet minister Andrew Lansley said current laws "strike the right balance" and losing the cases would mean new restrictions on employers.

On Wednesday, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey criticised the prime minister for his hypocrisy, in failing to support Christians facing "discrimination" but extolling his own faith.

andrew lansley

Andrew Lansley, the former Health Secretary, is now Leader of the House of Commons

Four British Christians who claim they were sacked because of their religious beliefs appeared at the court in Strasbourg, in a final attempt to prove they have been discriminated against because of their faith.

The court in Strasbourg, France, heard the cases of two workers forced out of their jobs after visibly wearing crosses, a Relate therapist sacked for saying he might not be comfortable giving sex counselling to homosexual couples, and a Christian registrar who wishes not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

They argue that the actions of their employers contravened articles nine and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibit religious discrimination and allow "freedom of thought, conscience and religion".

One of the cases being heard is that of Nurse Shirley Chaplin, from Exeter, who was moved to a paperwork role by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust in Devon after refusing to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix.

In the Commons, Tory Matthew Offord (Hendon) said Prime Minister David Cameron had backed those who want to wear a crucifix.

shirley chaplin

Shirley Chaplin, wearing her cross necklace, with Reverend John Eustice (left) and barrister Paul Diamond at an employment tribunal.

He said: "That was a position also supported by the Attorney General and the Equalities Minister.

"Therefore can we have a minister come to the despatch box and explain why lawyers acting on behalf of the Government are contradicting our Prime Minister in regard to their opposition to the case of Shirley Chaplin in her ability to wear a crucifix?"

Responding to questions on future Commons business, former health secretary Mr Lansley said: "We believe UK law strikes the right balance and losing the cases would mean extra restrictions on how employers treat their workforces and we don't seek that."

The Strasbourg court, which heard the case on Tuesday, has reserved its judgment to a date yet to be set.

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