Huffpost UK uk
Jessica Elgot Headshot

Christians Turn On David Cameron After Landmark Discrimination Judgement In European Court

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

A leading Christian activist, whose charity backed the controversial discrimination cases at the European Court of Human Rights, has condemned David Cameron's "hollow words" in the wake of the judgement.

She warned that hundreds more cases of this nature would appear in UK courts, if the government does not commit to changing the law to allow conscientious objection from religious people when it comes to gay marriage and relationships.

Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, who represented two of the applicants, Gary McFarlane and Shirley Chaplin, accused him of "throwing Christians a morsel", because the Prime Minister is feeling the heat over gay marriage from Christian campaigners.

Cameron tweeted his response just after the ruling.


David Cameron
Delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld – ppl shouldn't suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs

In an interview with The Huffington Post UK, Williams said: "Cameron's words ring very hollow indeed. He needs to explain why on earth the British government pursued this case? Why put us through it?

gary mcfarlane

Marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane poses for a photograph outside the Christian Legal Centre

"Why not help us, if that's what he believes? We are his citizens, Shirley is his citizen. Nadia [Eweida, who won her right to wear a cross in her job with British Airways] is his citizen.

"He is feeling the heat from Christians, and it's like he is throwing us these little morsels of hope. It doesn't make any sense."

British Airways employee Eweida, who claimed she suffered religious discrimination at work because she was asked to remove her cross, was the only one of the four applicants who won the landmark legal battle at the European Court of Human Rights.

But the three other claimants lost their cases, including the two represented by the Christian Legal Centre, marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane, who was sacked for saying he might object to offering sex therapy to homosexuals, and nurse Shirley Chaplin, who was moved to a paperwork role by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust in Devon after she refused to take off a confirmation cross.

Registrar Lillian Ladele also lost her case, and was disciplined after refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

Williams told HuffPost UK: "He has to come out and show us he will protect Gary and introduce equalities legislation which gives reasonable accommodation. This is about being a conscientious objector.

"Gary never harmed or refused anyone, he would be the first to offer a homosexual couple a coffee and a slice of cake. He had a hypothetical objection to getting involved in sex therapy for homosexuals.

"It is not like refusing a gay person a haircut or a cup of coffee. It's like a doctor refusing to do an abortion, which they are permitted to do. Lillian Ladele never stopped a single gay couple having a civil partnership."

And she warned of countless more litigation from those objecting to gay marriage, many of who may find themselves unable to do their jobs and live by their Christian beliefs.

She told HuffPost UK: "If the Government redefines marriage, there are going to be countless cases like this. We are handling about 50 cases at any one time. We wouldn't need to exist if everything was OK. We are taking on lawyers because there's such a demand.

"What happens to the teachers who won't teach the new definition of marriage? What happens to the social worker that won't place a child with two dads?

"What happens to a magistrate who won't place a child in such a place? Things are going to get very difficult indeed unless we learn to work it out, sensibly, and accommodate these beliefs."

shirley chaplin

Nurse Shirley Chaplain at her solicitors office in London today after she lost her European Court of Human Rights case

McFarlane believes it is specifically Christians who are targeted. He told HuffPost UK: "So many employers are grappling with this. Most of the time you don't hear about this. They probably just suffer in the background. The UK government might say, OK, well just get another job, another profession."

"Freedom to resign is not freedom of religion," Williams said.

McFarlane continued: "There are Muslim sex therapists. I know that there are. And they are accommodated... believe me. That's the reality.

"It is not politically correct to go after a Muslim person in the same way, it is a hot potato. They would be rioting on the streets. But Christianity is fair game.

"At Relate, reasonable accommodation was not something they would even consider. The reality is that a gay couple would never ever have come to me for sex therapy. How could I have advised them?

"They would not have gone to Relate at all, unless they knew that sex therapist was a gay person. It was all hypothetical. It just doesn't happen, it was all totally hypothetical."

Chaplin too said she was baffled at the harshness of the response from the Trust. She told HuffPost UK: "I was at an age where I did not have many years left working.

"Some reasonable accommodation would have let me end my career, and made virtually no difference. It's not like people were banging on the same door asking for the same treatment. It was so surprising."

All have agreed to keep lobbying for a change in the law, Chaplin said. "It's path I chose to take and I can't stop, I can't turn round again. It's not my choice as to when it ends. I embrace being a public figure but I don't enjoy it."

church cameron

David Cameron is under fire to change the law from Christian groups

Macfarlane added: "This is way bigger than Gary McFarlane, way bigger even that Christianity. There are some significant issues that arise for all of us in multicultural Britain. I had no clue where this was going, I found myself in the limelight, and so I have to do the best I can."

"I take some heart from this judgment. I had been told before that I had no rights, I was the discriminator, and I was refusing to provide a service. They are the underdogs, not you. But the European Court of Human Rights has asserted that believing in marriage is a manifestation of faith. That is something, at least."

Williams told HuffPost UK she also took some positives from the judgment: "This recognises that the cross is a Christian symbol and that sexual purity is a religious, Christian value. I take heart from that.

"We have got to such a place in this country that is still an achievement. Can it really be Great Britain? That courts rule the cross is not a Christian symbol?"

Around the Web

Court: BA Discriminated Against Christian Staffer - ABC News

Court: BA Discriminated Against Christian Staffer

EU judges to rule on UK Christians' discrimination claims

British Airways Christian employee Nadia Eweida wins case

European court to rule on Bristol Christian's discrimination

Coptic Pope: Discrimination Against Christians in Egypt 'Hurts Us So Much'

BA Employee Wins Religious Discrimination Case