By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor Telegraph.co.uk - 13 Apr 2012
Christians are being “persecuted” by courts and “driven underground” in the same way that homosexuals once were, a former Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.
Lord Carey says worshippers are being “vilified” by the state, treated as “bigots” and sacked simply for expressing their beliefs.
The attack is part of a direct appeal to the European Court of Human Rights before a landmark case on religious freedom.
In a written submission seen by The Daily Telegraph, the former leader of more than 70?million Anglicans warns that the outward expression of traditional conservative Christian values has effectively been “banned” in Britain under a new “secular conformity of belief and conduct”.
His comments represent one of the strongest attacks on the impartiality of Britain’s judiciary from a religious leader.
He says Christians will face a “religious bar” to employment if rulings against wearing crosses and expressing their beliefs are not reversed.
Lord Carey argues that in “case after case” British courts have failed to protect Christian values. He urges European judges to correct the balance.
The hearing, due to start in Strasbourg on Sept 4, will deal with the case of two workers forced out of their jobs over the wearing of crosses as a visible manifestation of their faith. It will also take in the cases of Gary McFarlane, a counsellor sacked for saying that he may not be comfortable in giving sex therapy to homosexual couples, and a Christian registrar, who wishes not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.
Lord Carey, who was archbishop from 1991 to 2002, warns of a “drive to remove Judaeo-Christian values from the public square”. Courts in Britain have “consistently applied equality law to discriminate against Christians”.
They show a “crude” misunderstanding of the faith by treating some believers as “bigots”. He writes: “In a country where Christians can be sacked for manifesting their faith, are vilified by State bodies, are in fear of reprisal or even arrest for expressing their views on sexual ethics, something is very wrong.
“It affects the moral and ethical compass of the United Kingdom. Christians are excluded from many sectors of employment simply because of their beliefs; beliefs which are not contrary to the public good.”
He outlines a string of cases in which he argues that British judges have used a strict reading of equality law to strip the legally established right to freedom of religion of “any substantive effect”.
“It is now Christians who are persecuted; often sought out and framed by homosexual activists,” he says. “Christians are driven underground. There appears to be a clear animus to the Christian faith and to Judaeo-Christian values. Clearly the courts of the United Kingdom require guidance.”
He says the human rights campaign has gone too far and become a political agenda.
Keith Porteous-Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “The idea that there is any kind of suppression of religion in Britain is ridiculous.
“Even in the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to religious freedom is not absolute – it is not a licence to trample on the rights of others. That seems to be what Lord Carey wants to do.”