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Vatican laments denial of right to conscientious objection

VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican applauded the European Court of Human Rights’ recognition, on January 15, of the right of a British Airways employee, Nadia Eweida, a 60-year-old Coptic Christian, to wear a crucifix on her uniform, but lamented the court’s denial of the full right of conscientious objection in other cases claiming religious discrimination in the United Kingdom. 

Eweida’s case was one of four claims of religious discrimination against English Christians brought before the court. However, the other three claims were dismissed, those of Gary McFarlane, a relationships counsellor who was fired after he expressed a moral objection to offering therapy to same-sex couples; Lillian Ladele, a registrar, who refused to preside over civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples; and Shirley Chaplin, a  57-year-old nurse who said she was forced from her job for wearing a crucifix in breach of uniform policy. 

McFarlane and Chaplin said they would appeal the judgment at the court’s Grand Chamber. 

In a January 16 interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican secretary for relations with states, said the cases demonstrate how “questions relating to freedom of conscience and religion are complex, in particular in European society marked by the increase of religious diversity and the corresponding hardening of secularism.” 

He said that no matter how complex the questions surrounding “morally controversial subjects, such as abortion or homosexuality, freedom of conscience must be respected.”

Archbishop Mamberti said, “rather than being an obstacle to the establishment of a tolerant society in its pluralism, respect for freedom of conscience and religion is a condition for it.” 

The archbishop quoted Pope Benedict XVI who told members of the diplomatic corps to the Vatican on January 7 that “in order effectively to safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect the right of conscientious objection.” (Sunday Examiner, January 20)......

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