A week after David Cameron’s government succeeded in curtailing the freedom of conscience of Christians in the workplace at the European Court of Human Rights Baroness Warsee, Minister for Faith and Communities, hosted an international summit for foreign ministers to discuss religious intolerance and freedom of religion. The phrases ‘brass neck’ and ‘gross hypocrisy’ come to mind.
If that wasn’t ironic enough it is reported that Baroness Warsee and the foreign ministers focused discussions on religious freedom in light of the UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 which recognises freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and aims to tackle promotion of discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief. This a week after the British government succeeded at the European Court of Human Rights that Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane were lawfully sacked for their conscientious objections to homosexuality based on their Christian faith.
Lillian Ladele was disciplined by Islington Council for not being prepared to conduct civil partnership ceremonies in spite of the fact that other registrars were prepared to meet any demand for the service and Ms Ladele’s conscience could have been easily accommodated by her employer.
Gary McFarlane, an experienced relationships counsellor, indicated during a training course that, if the situation ever arose, he might have a conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to a same-sex couple on account of his Christian faith. He was dismissed for gross misconduct for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, despite the fact that the issue involved a hypothetical scenario and the fact that there was no risk of anyone being denied a service, since there were many other counsellors who were willing and able to provide it.
James Eadie QC, acting for David Cameron’s government, stated before the European Court of Human Rights that Christians are only entitled to religious freedom in the privacy of their homes, insisting that there was a “difference between the professional and private sphere”.
It is understood that the International summit of foreign ministers focused their concerns on anti-Islamic activities in the West, which they related to anti-Christian persecution as a backlash in Islamic countries.
Baroness Warsi told The Times: “[The meeting] is an important step in opening up the discussion around religious intolerance and freedom of religion and belief worldwide.
“This is a personal priority for me which is why I’m bringing together a group of key ministers, ambassadors and senior advisers from around the world to explore this topic.
“I firmly believe that through building a deeper understanding of the shared issues we face together, and understanding more about each other’s viewpoints, we will be able to build on a stronger consensus on the issues of how best to deal with religious intolerance and guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for all”.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “Baroness Warsi will be hosting a high level ministerial meeting to discuss religious intolerance and freedom of religion and belief worldwide.
“This international issue is a plank at the heart of our human rights agenda and this meeting will enable us to discuss and how we can move international discussions forward on these issues within the framework of the UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18.
“We also want to build a deeper understanding of the shared issues we face together, and to understand more about each others’ viewpoints. Through this we hope to be able to build a stronger international consensus on the issues of how best to deal with religious intolerance and guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for all.”
Protect the Pope comment: It is a good thing that the issue of religious intolerance and religious freedom are being taken up at high levels of government. But did no foreign minister question the credibility of this summit organised by David Cameron’s government coming just one week after the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against UK Christians at the hands of the same government? Did any foreign minister raise the cases of Ladele and McFarlane during the summit or would this have been seen as impolite to raise with the hosts?
Apparently, one of the aims of the summit is to establish a core group of ministers from around the world to work together when incidents of religious intolerance arise. Will the cases of Ladele and McFarlene trigger the convening of this core group? How about the cases of the Christian B&B owners fined for refusing to allow two Homosexuals to share a bed in their home? Or the case of the Christian foster parents who were refused future placements of children because they upheld Christian morality about homosexuality? Or the case of the Scottish Catholic midwives being forced to organise abortions against their consciences? Or the cases of housing association employees disciplined and fined for either displaying a cross or expressing objections to same-sex ‘marriage’ on facebook? Are these incidents of religious intolerance enough to trigger the convening of ministers or will the fact that the UK leads the organisation of this group deter such questions? This whole protect is flawed from the start due to the leadership role of David Cameron’s government, another country should take the lead on this.