Friday, January 11, 2013

ECHR to issue Verdict on Vital Christian Freedom Cases

Increasing international concern has been voiced throughout the last few years regarding the growing religious discrimination against Christians within EU borders and beyond. ECPM has been closely following the developments in such instances and has actively participated in drawing attention to these issues. A few cases from the UK, however, have become the center of attention as their appeal against the UK government has reached the European Court of Human Rights. 
 
Judgment in the cases of four UK Christians will be handed down at the ECHR in Strasbourg on Tuesday 15th January 2013 at 09:00 UK time (10:00 Central European Time). 

Based on Update from the Christian Legal Center

All four cases relate to the extent of effective protection under the European Convention on Human Rights for the manifestation of Christian faith in the public sphere. Two of the cases (Chaplin and Eweida) relate to the visible wearing of a cross. The other cases (McFarlane and Ladele) relate to protection of Christian conscience in the professional arena. More information about the cases you will find here 

The cases are being carefully watched across Europe. Of particular interest will be the interpretation of how the very strong provision for 'freedom of thought, conscience and religion' under Article 9 translate into practical protections in diverse European societies. The decision of the European Court will determine the direction of freedom of religion from Lisbon to Vladivostok; the rights of Christian employees in the workplace to ‘reasonable accommodation’ of their faith. 

At a hearing in September 2012, the UK government contested all the cases in spite of public statements in support of freedom to wear the cross by the Prime Minister and other government ministers. On 11th July 2012, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons: “I fully support the right of individuals to wear religious symbols at work... it is a vital religious freedom.” 

Freedom of religion and its public expression have long been enshrined in international law through charters such as the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that: 

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance” (article 9 of the ECHR). 

As Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
"These are landmark cases and we have waited a long time to get to this point. At stake is not only the future shape of Christian involvement in community life but the protection of important personal freedoms in a diverse society."

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