Religion and the workplace is a big topic these days. We have recently written a lot about employers’ need to accommodate the right of religious employees to wear religion-required clothes, tattoos or symbols.
Now, the august European Court of Human Rights sitting in Strasbourg will hear four “landmark” employment cases arising out of the UK which involve not only the wearing of religious symbols, but also the refusal to perform job duties because of religious beliefs. The four cases, described by one reporter as perhaps defining the boundaries of religious liberties in the UK when decided, involve practicing Christians who allege employment discrimination in violation of articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (i.e., freedom of religion, and the prohibition of discrimination). The cases involve the following fact situations.
(1) Two employees who allege that they were prevented from wearing a cross visibly;
(2) A municipal registrar of births, deaths and marriages who alleges that she was fired because she declined to officiate at same-sex civil partnership ceremonies;
(3) A counselor who refused to provide counseling to same-sex couples because he believes that "homosexual relationships are contrary to God’s law."
These issues are still hot-button issues in the US, and we will see what the European Court decides and if/how it may affect American law.