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Judges are biased against Christians, says archbishop

By on Friday, 9 September 2011

Archbishop Smith says judges are guilty of 'woolly thinking' (Photo: Mazur/

Archbishop Smith says judges are guilty of 'woolly thinking' (Photo: Mazur/

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark has said the British courts are wrongfully penalising Christians through an “incorrect interpretation” of human rights laws.

The archbishop said judges were guilty of “woolly thinking” and a bias against Christians who either wore religious jewellery or who had taken a moral stand against acts they held in conscience to be sinful.

He said certain court decisions had not upheld Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Britain’s Human Rights Act of 1998 is based on that convention.

His comments were directed primarily at courts which, he explained, wrongly upheld the legitimacy of disciplinary measures taken against four Christians who have since decided to challenge the workings of the law at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on the grounds that British judges were failing to protect their rights.

“The courts are misinterpreting the law,” said Archbishop Smith, vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the chairman of the bishops’ Department for Citizenship and Christian Responsibility.

His remarks came a day after the department responded to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a government-funded body that had sought the bishops’ views on the four cases.

The request followed permission by the European court for the commission to intervene in the cases of Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane in an attempt to clarify how the law ought to have been applied.

Mrs Eweida, a check-in clerk for British Airways, was suspended after refusing to remove a small crucifix over her uniform. Mrs Chaplin, a nurse, was stopped from working on hospital wards and given a desk job after she refused to hide her cross.

Miss Ladele lost her job as a registrar in London after she refused to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples. Mr McFarlane, a relationship counsellor, was sacked when he refused to give sexual therapy counselling to gay couples.

The commission wants to convince the European court that the law was wrongly applied in the cases of Mrs Eweida and Mrs Chaplin but correctly applied in the cases of Miss Ladele and Mr McFarlane.

Archbishop Smith said that although Sikhs and Muslims had successfully used the law to uphold a right to manifest their beliefs in such areas as religious attire and jewelry, Christians were denied the same right because the courts had decided that it was not essential to the practice of their faith.

“Why can’t Christians wear the symbol of the cross?” he asked in an interview with the American Catholic News Service.

“It is absolutely part of the Gospel,” he said. “Without the cross there is no salvation. It is at the heart of our faith because it is the symbol and sign of God’s unconditional love.”

Archbishop Smith also insisted that Christians must be allowed “by any reckoning” to act according to their consciences and “not be obliged to do something they know or believe in their consciences to be wrong”.

The archbishop and his department argue that the law was wrongly applied in every case.

The absolute rights of the four to manifest their religious beliefs, the archbishop said, were protected by the European human rights convention.

Article 9 says people have the right “either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”. It says such rights may be limited when necessary for the normal functioning of a democratic society.

Article 14 says that all citizens must enjoy the right of freedom of religion.

Archbishop Smith said that the way the articles had been interpreted by the courts revealed a fundamental lack of balance.

“There seems to be a prejudice against Christians or against the manifestation of the Christian faith which totally puzzles me,” he added. “I think it is woolly thinking, to be honest.”

He said that whenever there was a conflict of rights between Christians and homosexuals, for instance, the courts were consistently “coming down heavily on one side and totally ignoring the other”.

“The law properly applied wouldn’t disadvantage anybody but would ensure that we all could exercise our rights fairly,” Archbishop Smith said.

  • Bob Hayes

    Well said Archbishop. It is time the tide of anti-Christian court rulings was abated and turned back. 

  • John McManus

    Interesting comments from the Archbishop, but your story is wrong to say that Shirley Chaplin was stopped from working after “refusing to hide her cross”. In fact she was told she could wear it pinned to her lapel, but she insisted on wearing it on a chain around her neck, which broke health and safety rules. The cross was not the problem, so far as her employers were concerned; it was the neck chain which held it.

  • ms catholic state

    Can our prelates demand that Catholics show we are Christian in some way like wearing a Cross or Crucifix, … that we are witnessing for Christ and going forth to teach all nations as we are commanded to do in the Gospels?! 

  • Neil Addison

    Actually I have a copy of the Judgment in the Chaplin case and she was not told that she could wear it on her lapel It was suggested that she could wear it “inside” her lapel or inside a pocket but it was not suggested that she could wear it visible on her lapel

  • Parasum

    “It is absolutely part of the Gospel…”

    The Cross is – wearing it, is not.

    “There seems to be a prejudice against Christians or against the
    manifestation of the Christian faith which totally puzzles me,” he
    added. “I think it is woolly thinking, to be honest.”

    Maybe he should spend an hour on YouTube; he’d soon find out why Christianity is regarded as morally indistinguishable from Nazism & fit only for fanatics, con-men, thugs, the mentally backward, liars, obscurantists, child abusers, and other such delightful people. The “prejudice” he think he sees is uncritically pro-Christian, compared to what is said against Christianity in cyberspace.

    “…He said that whenever there was a conflict of rights between Christians
    and homosexuals, for instance, the courts were consistently “coming down
    heavily on one side and totally ignoring the other”.”

    Maybe the courts do so because in the cases in question – and what those are, we are not told – that is the equitable & just thing to do. If the courts ignored the cases put by lawyers for Christians, that would be scandalously one-sided – so ther should be plenty of very clear evidence of such flagrant injustices – so where is it ?  Just possibly, the Christian cases were devoid of merit, and deserved to be thrown out.  I like his assumption that to be gay means not being Christian; it’s an assumption rejected by the CCC (Paras. 2357-9).  

  • Frank

    So many now think gays are just marvelous, and Christians are not.  Perhaps they need to visit our fair city of San Francisco.  On last 2011 Easter Morning, Gays put on a “Hunky Jesus contest”, in a public park, before a large crowd, in which naked men portrayed themselves as Jesus, publicly mocking Christians… Freedom of Speech for Gays!! (but, not for Christians). Or, the annual Folsom Street Fair, where gays engage in public sexual activity, on a street where there are families, and a public hanging of a naked man, on a cross directly in front of the local Catholic Church.  All approved and guarded by the local police. The poster for the fair, was a takeoff of DaVinci’s Last Supper painting, in which the gay version, shows Jesus as a naked Leather stud.  Or, the last Gay parade, with naked men on floats.  Perhaps they might like this weeks news about gay men walking and sitting naked in the Castro, in an area where there is a parochial school just a block away.  One of the young people I talked with, said he is propositioned all the time, by gay men, as he travels home from school.  But, no doubt, it was this young student’s fault – after all, he is one of those evil Christians! Not one of those splendid gay folk.  And thanks, Gays, for that wonderful time we SF citizens had during the height of the epidemic, where our fellow humans, and fellow workers, were dropping dead from HIV all around us – an epidemic which was so tragic and so much loss of life, but could have been prevented, by the simple device, of avoiding multiple sexual encounters.  But, no mention of this can ever be made to gays!  It isn’t their fault!  It was caused by the Pope!!  We are so tired of all this self delusional gay propaganda, about how splendidly open minded they are, and how much tragic prejudice they must endure, from those horrible closed minded Christians….

  • Parasum
  • Parasum

    “So many now think gays are just marvelous, and Christians are not.”

    Even if that is so, it is irrelevant to the present issue: if the Christians hadn’t a leg to stand on legally, and gays did, it was absolurtetely right for the Christians to lose. Law that it is partisan and tribal, is worse than no law.

    If Christians don’t want to be unpopular, they shouldn’t behave like berks, hypocrites, & other repulsive things. Who needs atheism, when so many US Christians behave like thugs and terrorists ? Pretending that Christians are poor persecuted lambs who harm nobody, is useless and dishonest, not to mention gutless. Christianity is despised for many very good reasons – most of them, possibly all, the fault of Christians. Not that any of that is relevant to the merits of legal cases of which we are told only that gays were on one side, so-called Christians on the other, and that the latter lost.  The only wrong I can see is the instinctive gay-bashing of people who are pro-Christian for no better reason than that some of the parties in these cases are – supposedly – Christian, and that the other parties are gay.  So much for “charity seek[ing] not its own”  :( – in reality, Christians all too often care for no one but themselves.

  • ms catholic state

    It’s like the last days of Rome.  As someone said….during the fall of Rome the conscientious were maligned while the decadent were exalted!  Oh dear not a good omen for our declining collapsing depraved Western culture.

  • LocutusOP

    It seems my previous reply vanished in thin air, so I’ll repost an abbreviated version.

    The catechism on the vital parts you mention is unnecessarily convoluted. Reading the rest of the catechism and the Bible, the picture is very clear – crystal clear to the point whereby there can be no debate. Perhaps that is why the catechism gives the issue such short shrift.

    To the extent that being a Christian means following in the path of Christ – rejecting evil, seeking holiness and aiming to please God -, and to the extent that a homosexual is one who has sexual relations with another of the same gender – which is how the term has always been understood – then one cannot be a homosexual (at least unrepentantly) and a Christian at the same time. One necessarily excludes the other, in so much as homosexual behaviour is a direct and deliberate rejection of God’s plan for man.

  • Anonymous

    Parasum…Are you GAY? What is your agenda here?

     You are hurling insults at Christians and their beliefs. Christians accept gays quite happily but don’t condone what they do sexually, nor the gratuitous flaunting of it as described by Frank from San Francisco.
    That smacks of decadence.

    My father was bi-sexual but he would never ever have behaved in such a way. It’s childish, irreverent and coarse.
    The gays I know (and I know quite a few) are a civilised bunch who uphold everyone’s right to follow their conscience and would not want to impose their sexuality on anyone who was not of their mind.

  • D Corrigan

    It is indeed a disgrace that a senior cleric Archbishop Smith should impugn the integrity of Her Majesty’s judiciary, especially on such scant evidence. Had he read the judgements to which he refers prior to writing he would have discovered that it was he who misunderstood and maligned the judgement of the court. Archbishop Smith is in a time warp insofar that he thinks that The Catholic Church or any church carries a special position in society or in law; they do not. The is little respect for The Catholic Church and for Christianity as a whole because of their baseless and single minded assertion that they know what is best for the human race. They do not know.It is so often overlooked that although a person may have the right to wear religious regalia, emblems or artefacts, another person has the right to object to them doing so. Not everyone wishes to see the emblem of a person being tortured and executed, as a crucifix depicts, and it may be seen by many as insulting and offensive outside the church setting or religious environment. The Archbishops accusation about HM Judiciary is insulting to The Queen and undermines the majesty of the law at a time of social unrest and it does not behove the reputation or standing of the Catholic Church that he should make wild and reckless statements about the integrity of the court. Had he bothered to study the judgements before making his statement, he would have discovered that the judgements to which he has referred were balanced and fair. I notice that he has not been admonished or castigated by The Pope for making such disrespectful comments about HM Courts. This thoughtless and uncontrolled statement by Archbishop Smith is just another act of alienation between the Catholic Church and logical reasoning.

  • Mal

    Actually, if gays do not want to be unpopular they shouldn’t behave like hypocrates and other repulsive things. They should stop behaving like thugs and terrorists and Christian bashers.

  • whytheworldisending

    What you call judgements are mere opinions. Your unthinking reverence for these opinions is idolatrous. Judges are not infallible. That is why we have an appeal system. The vast majority of flawed judgements are not appealed because of cost considerations, and the Appeal Courts themselves get the law wrong when expressing their judgements (Many of which are majority decisions in which the opinions of the appeal judges contradict one another - They can’t all be right.)

    One classic example of judges making a complete mess of the law through their own incompetence is the case of Caldwell (1982), which concerned the meaning of ‘reckless’ in the Criminal Damage Act 1971. The Act had been passed following a Law Commission Report recommending modernisation of terminology, and the Act simply replaced the old-fashioned word, ‘maliciously’ with ‘recklessly.’ It did not change the law. The House of Lords seemingly unaware of this, took it upon themselves to define a new meaning for ‘reckless’ which was wider than the old meaning of ‘malicious.’ This resulted in many injustices and went on for 22 YEARS, before the House of Lords finally recognised its error and overruled itself in the case RvG(2003).

    All forms of idolatry have one thing in common. They stop us thinking. The House of Lords itself had already – before Caldwell – acknowledged that it makes mistakes by issuing its Practice Statement in 1966 saying that it could depart from its own earlier decisions, and likelwise the Court of Appeal, in the 1994 Young v Bristol Aeroplane case, pronounced that it too gets things wrong and should be free to ignore its earlier mistaken decisions.

    And these are judges – not politicians, but the European Court of Human Rights is not staffed by judges. It is made up of politicians, with a very clear agenda. By the way, the Queen is Christian.

  • whytheworldisending

    I agree that there is a bias, but to be fair to our domestic judges, who, under the Human Rights Act 1998 (which Cameron wants to abolish) must have regard to decisions of the ECHR, the ECHR has distorted the meaning of the Convention itself so as to subvert the original aims of those who wrote it. The Convention was set up to preserve our Christian heritage, which underpins all of the freedoms and rights which the Convention sought to protect. Every legal decision is a political decision, and its about time everybody realised that these divisive changes in the law are being brought about through concerted political manouvres by an organised MINORITY.