The right to discriminate
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press
The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed a number of controversies surrounding the interaction between law and religion in the United Kingdom. In particular, tensions have emerged between laws protecting religious freedom and those which prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. In particular, Parliament has repeatedly examined the scope and ambit of exceptions afforded to religious groups which allow them to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation when specific conditions are met. And these exceptions have reportedly led to tensions within both the Blair and Brown cabinets and rebukes from the Vatican and the European Commission, criticising the exceptions for being too narrow and too broad respectively. The exceptions have also been challenged by way of judicial review, have been applied or commented upon in a number of high-profile cases and have attracted comment in the print and broadcast media. A number of employees have brought claims asserting that new legal requirements promoting equality on grounds of sexual orientation are incompatible with their religious beliefs. This article seeks to explore the legal changes that have occurred in the first decade of the 21st century affecting religion and sexual orientation with particular reference to how courts and tribunals have dealt with clashes between the two. It discusses the extent to which English law allows religious groups and individuals to follow their own beliefs regarding human sexuality.