News

14th September, 2012

Mark Hill QC in European Courts of Human Rights

On 4 September 2012, Mark Hill QC was in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg representing Premier Christian Radio and the Bishops of Blackburn and Chester who had been given permission to intervene in the applications of Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin v United Kingdom, each of whom had been unsuccessful in the domestic court in their claims to wear a small cross on a necklace as a symbol of their Christian faith. They challenged the uniform policies of British Airways and Devon and Exeter Hospital respectively which they said was discriminatory in that whilst accommodation was made for minority religions, such as Sikhs and Muslims, no exception was made for Christians because it was considered to be a matter of personal choice and not a requirement of doctrine. Of some significance in the legal argument was whether their should be a difference of approach under the Equality Act 2010 in respect of private employers as opposed to the those in the public sector. The court's scrutiny was given to extent of what is styled the 'specific situation' rule, whereby in employment and other similar situations, prohibitions such as these are not taken to amount to an interference with religious liberty because the individual is free to resign and seek a post where there is no similar uniform code.

The Court also heard argument in a related pair of cases, Ladele & Mcfarlane v United Kingdom, where in the former case a registrar of marriages and (subsequently) civil partnership with Islington Council, and in the latter a relationship counsellor with Relate, claimed constructive dismissal since their sincerely held Christian belief regarded the practise of homosexuality as contrary to the will of God.

Both sets of cases raised issues under Article 9 (freedom of religion) and Article 14 (discrimination) which will be of considerable importance to the burgeoning United Kingdom caselaw on the subject. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the conjoined applications is not expected for several months.



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