Sacked counsellor loses ruling in gay therapy row
A CHRISTIAN relationship counsellor dismissed because he said his beliefs would prevent him from giving advice to same sex couples has lost a ruling at the European Court of Human Rights.
Bristol therapist Gary McFarlane was supported by the Christian Legal Centre for the latest action, which focused on how the European Convention on Human Rights should protect the rights of Christians to follow their faith in public.
The result of his case and three others were announced yesterday.
The other cases related to a Christian air stewardess and a nurse wearing crosses to work and a registrar being unprepared to conduct civil ceremonies for same sex couples.
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Air stewardess Nadia Eweida, told by British Airways to stop wearing her white gold cross visibly, was the only one to win her case – with judges ruling her rights had been violated under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Judges ruled that the rights of the three other Christians had not been violated by their employers.
Mr McFarlane, 51, was sacked from his role with the charity Relate for gross misconduct in 2008, after raising concerns about working with couples of the same sex during a training course.
He said he might have to raise a "conscientious objection" if the issue of giving psycho-sexual therapy, which includes giving advice on sexual intimacy, to same-sex partners, due to his Christian faith.
Mr McFarlane, formerly of Hanham but who now lives in Stapleton, told The Post: "It is regrettable that the European Court did not see fit to intervene.
"I won't say I am "disappointed", because I see that coverage of this case has had some useful outcomes.
"It has awoken a lot of people – the case wasn't just about me or about Christianity or about faith or no faith, it was about people who have a strong conscience view about something which differs from the reigning orthodoxy.
"I dared to stand up and have been ostracised – I can no longer get a job with the NHS."
In 2009 Mr McFarlane won a claim for unfair dismissal against Relate but a claim of religious discrimination was thrown out and also rejected on appeal.
An Appeal Court judge rejected an application to hear the discrimination case in 2010 and so the following year he took the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
But when the case was heard last year the Government contested the claim, arguing that religious rights are protected in private only and people cannot insist that employers accommodate them.
Mr McFarlane, along with the two other Christians who lost their cases, is considering an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court.