Euro Court: Religious Beliefs Don’t Justify Discrimination

Jim Burroway

January 15th, 2013

In four cases brought by people who say their Christian beliefs prohibit them from providing services to same-sex couples, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today that their beliefs do not justify discrimination. The ruling upheld British laws which ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. According to a press release from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights:

In the first case, Lillian Ladele was a civil registrar in London. She was dismissed because she refused officiating at civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after it became legal in 2005. She claimed she was discriminated because of her faith.

The Court ruled there had been no discrimination, and that British courts—who upheld her dismissal—had struck the right balance between her right to freedom of religion, and same-sex couples’ right not to be discriminated.

In the second case, Gary McFarlane was a counsellor providing psycho-sexual therapy to couples. He was dismissed for refusing to work with same-sex couples, arguing this was incompatible with his beliefs. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been no violation of his right to freedom of belief.

The ruling may be appealed within the next three months.

Update: Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is mentioned in the official ruling (PDF: 515KB/53 pages) as a third party intervener.

Priya Lynn

January 15th, 2013

I’m really pleased to hear this. People are entitled to live according to their religious beliefs but they are not entitled to prevent other people from not living by them.

When christians say recognizing someone’s same sex marriage violates their freedom of religion they are assuming their freedom of religion should be absolute and priortized above every LGBT persons freedom. In a twisted way they can argue religious freedom demands they be allowed to kill gays or refuse to serve them in their restaurant but that doesn’t fly in a society where people’s freedoms are balanced and equal. A christians freedom to kill or discriminate against gays infringes on the gays freedom to live and have the same rights as other. Freedoms sometimes conflict and that means sometimes people have to compromise and can’t have things always go their way as their right to swing their fist ends when it meets a gay person’s nose.


January 15th, 2013

Exactly, Priya – as I’m fond of saying, “when someone is beating you with a stick, it’s not discrimination to take the stick away.”


January 17th, 2013

Priya — it’s not just that their freedom of religion should be prioritized above every LGBT person’s, but above everyone else’s. When they talk about “violating their religious freedom,” what they’re trying to do is establish the supremacy of their particular beliefs over civil law.

Priya Lynn

January 17th, 2013

Right Hunter.


January 17th, 2013

Exactly – every religion I’ve come across has a tenet of “we are right and everyone else is wrong.”

As long as theists leave that belief at home, I have no problem with them. But as soon as they try to legislate that kind of supremacism, then we have a problem.

Timothy Kincaid

January 17th, 2013


Pretty much anyone I’ve ever met (perhaps excluding Unitarians) who ever had an opinion on religion, politics, sports, or the best syrup for pancakes thinks that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

By definition. That’s what having an opinion means.

But you are right that problems start when it becomes “I’m right, you’re wrong, and I’m going to outlaw being wrong.”


January 17th, 2013

No, Timothy, having an opinion doesn’t mean having a certainty that every other opinion is wrong.

For example, it is my opinion that there is likely life on other planets. But I know I have no way of measuring, testing, or demonstrating that, so I keep an open mind. Adherence to a religion *requires* a belief that everyone else is wrong (and I agree with you on Unitarians so far as I understand their views). Put another way, I’ve never (ever) heard of a muslim saying “well I believe in Allah, but for all I know the jews are right.” Or a catholic saying, “well I think the blessed virgin Mary is the end-all, be-all of existence, but that Zoroastrianism sure has something going for it.”

And as for your analogy, someone defending his position on sports, politics, or syrup could point to evidence and make a logical case based on demonstration. For sports, they could point to win/loss statistics. For politics, they could point to effectiveness in getting laws passed. And for syrup, they could research the popularity of all sorts of recipes. (By the way, I’m by no means suggesting the tests I propose are exhaustive or even particularly good – I’m saying that an argument can be made – *based on evidence*).

But when it comes to religion, it fails any demonstration. Every. Time. So if someone wants to tell me “you should be a fan of XXX sports team because they’ve had the winningest record in history,” that’s a world apart from saying “you should believe in my god even though I have no falsifiable, testable, or repeatable way of demonstrating that my god exists.”

And I’m glad we agree that it’s beyond the pale to then say, “my god says you’re a sinner and you should pay higher taxes than everyone else.” But that, frankly, is cold comfort.


January 19th, 2013

“my god says you’re a sinner and you should pay higher taxes than everyone else.”

In fact that happens. Taxes are designed to allow people to reduce their income by the amount they donate to religious organizations which means those of us without fantasy alignments pay higher taxes than someone of the same income who follows a fantasy. I know it can and probably is argued that a non believer can achieve the same reduction by donating to established charities. The thing that is not mentioned, however, is that non religious charities have to report to the IRS what they receive in donations and how they dispense those funds. Churches do not have to follow this regulation and we don’t know how much money religious organizations squirrel away but a study by the PEW research organization has said that over 50% of all churches and synagogues have people involved in the control of church money are stealing from the churches and synagogues. That does no one any good.

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