BY DAVID V BARRETT
A CHRISTIAN relationship counsellor who lost his job because of his beliefs has been told he cannot appeal.
Gary McFarlane was sacked from his job with Relate in 2008 for refusing to counsel gay couples because he believed the Bible said that same-sex relationships were sinful. Last year an employment rights tribunal said his dismissal was fair. Mr McFarlane had been seeking to challenge this ruling on the grounds of religious discrimination, but a senior High Court judge has refused him the right to go to the Court of Appeal.
Mr McFarlane, 48, a father of two from Bristol, said he was “disappointed and upset” by the ruling. He said that although he had the ability to counsel same-sex couples “there should be allowances taken into account whereby individuals like me can actually avoid having to contradict their very strongly held Christian principles”.
Lord Carey of Clifton said in a witness statement that legal rulings against Christians could lead to civil unrest, and that cases of this type should be heard only by judges with “proven sensitivity” to reli gious issues. “ Recent decisions of the courts have illuminated insensitivity to the interests and needs of the Christian community and represent disturbing judg ments,” said the former Anglican leader.
In his ruling Lord Justice Laws said Lord Carey’s words showed “a misunderstanding of the law” and that legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified.
The judge said: “We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.” He said the idea that Christianity should be protected above other beliefs was “divisive, capricious and arbitrary”.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said that the judgment “could lead in effect to a religious bar to employment, in which Christians could be prevented from being registrars, counsellors, teachers, social workers or work on adoption panels.
She added: “We never attempted to argue that we could impose a Christian law, which the judge seems to suggest. We are simply talking about the principle of marriage, between a man and a woman, which has undergirded society for hundreds of years.”