Gemma White, barrister, Blackstone Chambers

Courts offer leap for faith

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  • A balanced article but it risks creating the impression that courts have already decided rights of religious believers have taken a step up the hierarchy ladder. They haven’t, and the court in Strasbourg is currently pondering that very question.
    To anyone in danger of being seduced by the “reasonable accommodation” position: We do not and should not make “reasonable accommodation” for racists who want to deprive black people of services (even if their motivation is “sincere” religious belief); and we do not and should not make “reasonable accommodation” for sexists who want to deprive women of services (even if their motivation is “sincere” religious belief”).
    And nor should we make “reasonable accommodation” for homophobes who want to deprive homosexuals of services – again, even if their motivation is “sincere” religious belief.
    Christians, or followers of other religions, who seek to deprive others of their lawful rights on the basis of theology or scripture must be careful what they wish for: they might just find that followers of rival faiths seek to deprive them of their rights on the same basis.
    The law must protect people’s right to belief, but not the actual belief. When beliefs become actions, and those actions infringe the lawful rights of others, the law must protect the victim and not the perpetrator.
    Being deprived of the “right” to inflict discrimination is not discrimination.
    Charlie Klendjian
    Lawyers’ Secular Society

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  • Interesting article and great comment by Charlie K. The problem is that it is naive to think that religious believers will rationally come to a conclusion about what they should not wish for. I fear that each group just wants to fight for special 'rights' over others and to hell with the consequences. If the a secular society can't resist that pressure..well it will fall into theocracy.

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  • The problem with exempting employees from particular duties to accommodate their religious belief is the increased burden on other employees, who may find the duties equally distasteful, to fill in the gaps.
    The notion of “sincerely held religious beliefs in line with a major tradition in European society” carrying extra weight compared with “sincerely held (secular, atheistic) beliefs in line with a major tradition in European society” is logically stupid, perverse and downright unfair.
    It worries me that the legal profession is compromising its rigorous discipline in order to maintain social niceties.

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