A recent posting in The Religious Freedom Project by Roger Trigg updates us on some recent court cases in the UK. Though there are significant differences, the culture and legal systems of the UK are probably our closest analogue and bear close watching.
Two cases involved wearing of religious symbols. In one case, a British Airways employee wished to wear a cross at work; her employer said that she could not. Interestingly, the same employer allowed Muslim women to wear the hijab, and Sikhs could wear a turban and distinctive bracelet. The court found for the employee and against British Airways. In the other case, a nurse wanted to wear a cross at work and was denied by the employer based on health and safety concerns. In this case, the court found for the employer. Both of these judgements seem reasonable.
The other two cases involve employees who would not accommodate gay “marriage.” In one case, a Christian employee of a private “relationship counseling” firm was unwilling to work with homosexual couples on sexual issues and was fired. In the other case, a registrar (justice of the peace, essentially, in function) would not register civil unions for same-sex couples. In both cases, the job changed significantly, and hadn’t required the employees to accept gay “marriage” when they accepted employment. The laws in the UK now permit gay “marriage” and their job requirements changed with the law.
As the article points out,
One continuing theme in many European cases has been that freedom of religion is guaranteed by freedom of contract. In other words, you are free to practise your religion, because you can always give up your job, if it makes demands that you find unacceptable (such as Sunday working).
The judges in these cases discarded all claims to religious freedom, deciding that (their opinion of) non-discrimination against homosexuals trumped any religious freedom. As Mr. Trigg summarizes,
What is quite clear is that once freedom of religion is not thought to be of absolutely fundamental importance in a society, but can give way to current social priorities, freedom of conscience also is challenged. Religious freedom, itself, is very hard to prise apart from the most basic freedoms that make any life worth living. It is regrettable that current European jurisprudence does not appear to take this point seriously.
I would add: this is the road that we are on in the United States.