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Judges are not biased against Christianity, Laws LJ says

29 April 2010

Lord Justice Laws has hit back at claims made by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey that judges are ignorant of and biased against Christian beliefs.

Giving judgment at the Court of Appeal in a case involving Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane, Laws LJ said Lord Carey’s observations were “misplaced”.

He went on: “The judges have never, so far as I know, sought to equate the condemnation by some Christians of homosexuality on religious grounds with homophobia, or to regard that position as ‘disreputable’.

“Nor have they likened Christians to bigots. They administer the law in accordance with the judicial oath: without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

Lord Justice Laws said that Lord Carey’s “mistaken suggestions” may have arisen from a misunderstanding as to the meaning attributed by the law to the idea of discrimination.

The lord justice said that under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, the law forbade discriminatory conduct, not by reference to motives but by reference to outcome.

“Accordingly the proposition that if conduct is accepted as discriminatory it thereby falls to be condemned as disreputable or bigoted is a non sequitur. But it is the premise of Lord Carey’s position.”

The court heard that Relate dismissed McFarlane after he refused to counsel same sex couples on sexual matters, contrary to the organisation’s equal opportunities policy which he had signed.

McFarlane claimed that he was discriminated against because of his religion or beliefs.

Laws LJ relied on the Court of Appeal ruling in Islington v Ladele [2009] EWCA Civ 1357, where a claim of discrimination by a Christian registrar who refused to perform civil partnership ceremonies was rejected.

He dismissed McFarlane’s application for permission to appeal against the decision of the EAT.

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Discrimination Children