Statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in response to yesterday’s ECHR judgment (15 Jan 2013).
A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference said:
“The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in these cases has both positive and negative aspects as regards the protection of freedom of religion, and the right to non-discrimination on grounds of religious belief.
“It is to be welcomed that the judgment, in finding in favour of Ms Eweida, recognises that in denying her request to wear a crucifix at work her employers were interfering with her Article 9 rights, and the judgment helpfully broadens the scope of protection of Article 9 to cover such cases.
“On the other hand, the Court’s judgment in the cases of Ladele, McFarlane and Chaplin is disappointing. Religion and conscience constitute core aspects of an individual’s identity. It is to be hoped that in future cases courts will place greater weight on these when adjudicating religious freedom and religious discrimination claims under the Convention.
“The Church would strongly encourage disputes of this kind to be settled without recourse to the courts. In many cases, applying common sense would enable a reasonable accommodation between competing rights to be found. But in a complex and sometimes contested environment this is not always possible, and it is essential that those who find the exercise of legitimate religious freedoms restricted or are subjected to religious discrimination should be confident that the domestic and European courts will take the infringement of their Convention rights just as seriously as other protected rights.”