This week sees the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) give a verdict on four religious belief cases; one of which was the now widely known case of Ms Eweida being forbidden to visibly wear a crucifix at work by British Airways.

The four cases were considered together however only Ms Eweida was successful in winning her argument. A case that at first glance seemed similar against an NHS trust… was not successful as the Health & Safety implications of visible jewellery in a hospital overrode the right to manifest a religious belief.

The other two cases centred around conflict between the employees’ religious beliefs and the work they were required to carry out when this involved same sex couples. In both cases the ECHR concluded that their rights with regard to religious belief had not been violated as the employer had a legitimate need to ensure that their services did not discriminate against same sex couples.

These cases all went through Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal, and the Court of Appeal before being heard by the ECHR.

The key message we believe is that such matters are complex and need to be dealt with carefully, sensitively and with respect. We can’t help but wonder if greater compromises couldn’t have been reached in some of these cases so that such extensive and costly legal proceedings would have been unecessary?

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