UK

Equality law 'should be extended to cover faith'

Cross and clothing of Church of England Bishop
Image caption Critics of the report say Christians have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else

A report on the status of Christianity in the UK says equality laws should cover people with religious beliefs.

The report, by a cross-party parliamentary group of Christians, says "reasonable accommodation" should be made for Christians.

This would be an extension of the current law which requires employers and public bodies to accommodate those with disabilities.

Critics say this law would give private prejudices the support of public law.

The report, called Clearing the Ground, says by extending the equality law, religious beliefs could be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

It says the interpretation of legislation put in place under the Labour government has resulted in religious beliefs being relegated below the rights of others.

The BBC's John McManus says critics have said Christians have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.

Discrimination

In recent years some Christians have said their beliefs have been marginalised in order to give minority groups greater rights.

Our reporter added that some commentators have gone so far as to claim that church-goers were being persecuted.

Image caption Baroness Warsi said Europe needed to become more confident in its Christianity

Last week Celestina Mba, a 57-year-old Christian, lost an employment tribunal case after being refused permission by Merton Council to take every Sunday off work.

It is the latest in a number of cases where believers have said that living out their faith has resulted in discrimination.

Conservative Party co-chairwoman Baroness Warsi wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph that religion was being"sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere".

The Muslim peer said Europe needed to become "more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity".

Her comments were made after the High Court recently ruled that a Devon town council had acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said at meetings.

The government has said it will "effectively reverse" the ruling by bringing in earlier than planned part of the Localism Act which aims to give councils greater powers and freedom.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) described Baroness Warsi's comments as "outdated, unwarranted and divisive".

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