BRITISH Christians' rights of conscience are being sacrificed on the altar of "obsessive political correctness" that goes against the values of democratic society, two European human rights judges declared.
The judges likened the treatment of a London marriage registrar, who asked not to have to carry out civil partnerships because of her beliefs on homosexuality, to conscientious objectors who suffered "at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition or a Nazi firing squad".
Employment lawyers said that in light of yesterday's ruling, Christians could be "lawfully excluded" from some jobs.
The court in Strasbourg upheld the right of workers to wear crosses as a visible manifestation of faith, as long it does not fall foul of health and safety policies.
It concluded that the UK had failed to protect the rights of Nadia Eweida, a British Airways check-in worker who was sent home because the small cross she wore contravened the airline's uniform policy, which has since been changed.
However, the court rejected claims by three other Christians who said that their right to religious freedom were ignored.
Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, was forbidden from wearing a cross at work on health and safety grounds. Gary McFarlane, a former counsellor, and Lillian Ladele, a marriage registrar, both resisted performing tasks they believed would amount to condoning homosexuality, which they believe is against the teaching of the Bible.
Ms Ladele asked to be excused from conducting civil partnership ceremonies and Mr McFarlane indicated he would be uncomfortable providing sex advice to a same-sex couples.
The court said that where there is a clash of rights – such as between the freedom of conscience and protecting gay people from discrimination – states should have a "wide margin of appreciation" to strike the balance.
It found that the British courts had not acted beyond this margin in rejecting legal challenges by the pair.
But last night employment lawyers claimed it meant Christians could now be "lawfully excluded" from some jobs.
Paul Lambdin, a partner at Stevens & Bolton, said: "It appears that those Christians, Muslims and others who disagree with same sex marriage and/or civil partnerships will be excluded from certain jobs."
Christian campaigners claimed that "millions" of people who hold "politically incorrect" views could now face new restrictions on expressing their opinion. (© Daily Telegraph, London)