by Terry Sanderson, reposted from the National Secular Society
We have reported on Newsline many cases of Christian activists trying to use the law to gain special privileges in the workplace for their beliefs. Examples include Nadia Eweida, the BA worker who was supposedly denied the right to wear a crucifix over her uniform, and Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who didn’t want to perform civil partnerships. There seem to have been dozens of these people coming forward claiming religious discrimination.
Self-appointed “defenders of religious freedom”
The Daily Mail and the Telegraph have provided a wide platform for these moans, and helped groups like the Christian Institute and Christian Concern for Our Nation to create in the public mind a whole mythology about the ‘persecution of Christians in the UK’. A couple of weeks ago I witnessed Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, regurgitating it in an Intelligence Squared debate at the Royal Geographical Society.
Such cases tend to come to grief when the full facts are uncovered in court. Freed from the distortions of the right-wing press, these cases nearly always turn out to be nothing more than religious activism posing as discrimination.
The latest case, thrown out of an industrial tribunal this week, involved paediatrician Sheila Matthews, who claims she was “forced out” of her position on the Northamptonshire County Council Adoption Panel because she would not recommend gay couples as adopters, however suitable they might be, because it is against her religion. Tellingly, she was represented at the tribunal by the usual suspects in these cases: barrister Paul Diamond and the Christian Legal Centre.
But once under scrutiny in the court, the carefully edited version of events that had been given to us by the Christian agitators was shown up for what it was – a lot of disingenuous rubbish.
The Head of Children’s Services at the Council, Martin Pratt, stated in a letter to Dr Matthews: “There are three concerns that I have: that we have to comply with the law, that we attract the widest possible range of suitable adopters and that we comply with our own policies. I believe that we could not allow a panel member to continue to participate in the process who is unable to consider, on the merits of the application alone, applications to adopt.” Dr Matthews said she did not think that gay couples should ever adopt.
The judge in the case — John MacMillan —said Matthews had no case against the Council. He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed. This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts. In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived… they were doomed to fail. There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”
Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity. He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the Council’s legal costs. And yet still Dr Matthews says she intends to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The ear-bashing that she got from the judge was well-deserved, but you will notice from theDaily Mail’s account of the case that there is no mention of what he said about the futility and emptiness of Dr Matthew’s legal challenges – but the paper reproduces a lot of her homophobic opinion.
And this is precisely how the mythology of Christian persecution has been created, by partial reporting and gross exaggeration. When the case first comes to public notice those on the other side — usually local authorities or other public bodies — are bound by confidentiality not to give their side of the story until it reaches court. This allows the Christians to have a field day with the facts, carefully editing the tale for their own advantage.
It seems these self-appointed defenders of religious freedom cannot win their cases by telling it like it is (case after case that has reached court has failed) and so have to depend on sympathetic journalists to spread their propaganda for them.
No related posts.
Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.