Christians 'face persecution'

Christians are being persecuted and driven underground as British courts fail to protect their religious values, says a former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lord Carey said Christians were excluded from many sectors of employment because of their beliefs, "vilified by state bodies" and feared arrest for expressing their views.

The former archbishop's claims are part of a written submission to the European Court of Human Rights, seen by the Daily Telegraph, ahead of a landmark case on religious freedom.

The hearing will deal with the cases of two workers forced out of their jobs forwearing visible crosses; a therapist sacked for saying he might not be comfortable giving sex counselling to homosexual couples; and a Christian registrar who wishes not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

British Airways worker Nadia Eweida, a Pentecostal Christian, received widespread publicity in 2006 when she was sent home after refusing to remove a necklace with a cross or hide it from sight. An employment tribunal ruled Eweida had not suffered religious discrimination, but the airline changed its uniform policy after the case to allow all religious symbols, including crosses.

Hospital nurse Shirley Chaplin was moved to a paperwork role after refusing to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix, Gary McFarlane, a Bristol marriage counsellor, was sacked for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals, and registrar Lilian Ladele was disciplined after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

In the submission, Lord Carey said the outward expression of traditional conservative Christian values has effectively been banned under a new "secular conformity of belief and conduct".

The former archbishop argued that in "case after case" British courts had failed to protect Christian values and urged European judges to correct the balance.

He said there was a "drive to remove Judaeo-Christian values from the public square", and argued that UK courts had "consistently applied equality law to discriminate against Christians" as they showed a "crude" misunderstanding of the faith by treating some worshippers as "bigots".

In his submission, Lord Carey, who was archbishop from 1991 to 2002, wrote: "In a country where Christians can be sacked for manifesting their faith, are vilified by state bodies, are in fear of reprisal or even arrest for expressing their views on sexual ethics, something is very wrong.

"It affects the moral and ethical compass of the United Kingdom. Christians are excluded from many sectors of employment simply because of their beliefs; beliefs which are not contrary to the public good."

"It is now Christians who are persecuted; often sought out and framed by homosexual activists."

Keith Porteous-Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said the idea that there was any kind of suppression of religion in Britain was "ridiculous".

"Even in the European Court of Human Rights, the right to religious freedom is not absolute - it is not a licence to trample on the rights of others. That seems to be what Lord Carey wants to do."

- AAP

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