to appeal refused
McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd, the Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal an
EAT decision. A particular viewpoint will not be protected by law simply
because it has its basis in a religious principle.
McFarlane was employed as a relationship counsellor. He was dismissed for refusing to provide
psychosexual therapy to same sex couples. Such a refusal was contrary to
Relate’s equal opportunities policy. Mr McFarlane claimed that his refusal to
provide therapy to same sex couples was because of his Christian beliefs, and
on that basis brought claims for direct and indirect religious discrimination against
employment tribunal and the EAT dismissed Mr McFarlane’s claims. It accepted
Relate’s case that it did not dismiss because of his Christian faith,
“….but because Relate believed that he would not comply with its
policies and it would have treated anyone else of whom that was believed,
regardless of religion, in the same way”. His dismissal was not because of
his Christian beliefs but for his refusal to abide by Relate’s fundamental
policy requirements – so there was no direct discrimination. In addition while
the policy may put Mr McFarlane, as a Christian, at a disadvantage there was no
indirect discrimination as the policy was justified as a proportionate means to
achieve a legitimate public and social aim.
The Court of Appeal
refused permission to appeal. The CA agreed with the tribunal and the EAT and
in view of the CA’s ruling in Ladele v London Borough of Islington (Christian
Registrar refusing to officiate in Civil partnerships), the appeal had no
prospect of success as the legal principles in both cases were the same.
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