Andrew Brown reports that evangelical Christian opinion has moved against the strategy of legal challenges to equality legislation. The Evangelical Alliance stated:
It is highly questionable whether British courts of law should be used as forums for debating the pros and cons of conflicting human rights created by equalities legislation. Instead, they should only be used to resolve disputed points of law based on evidence.
This, he notes, is very different from the tone of the EA’s press release in response to the Lillian Ladele case three years ago. He concludes:
I suspect, though, that the EA has noticed by now that the law means what it fairly plainly says, and that relying on judges to overthrow it is a fairly stupid strategy.
The response of most HR managers to this news will be, ‘Thank God (or whoever) for that!’
Claims of religious discrimination in the workplace are few in number but they create a huge amount of publicity. Most of them have failed because the intent behind them has been to make a political point. Once the evidence is examined, these claims tend to fall apart.
But, as with all high-profile employment law cases, the publicity is often more damaging. As Darren Newman says, a combination of media panic and managers’ uncertainty about the law creates an atmosphere where employers become afraid to challenge behaviour and troublemakers are emboldened. The words ‘You have to let me do this and exempt me from that because it’s my religion’ would be enough to have many managers running for cover. That most cases brought by religious troublemakers fail tends to get forgotten. What remains is the fear of challenging religious shroud-wavers.
So if campaigning religious organisations are now going to discourage their supporters from bringing such actions that can only be a good thing. Using employment law to make political points might get some people their fifteen minutes of fame but it is a pain in the backside for the people they work with.
Of course, there are other religious organisations who will still continue to encourage people to bring cases. Some have a vested interest in doing so. We haven’t seen the last of bonkers religious discrimination claims. But now that an influential Christian organisation has realised that bringing such cases is a complete wast of time, we will, hopefully, see a lot fewer of them.