A Bristol relationship counsellor, who was sacked after saying on a training course he might have a conscientious objection to giving sex therapy advice to gay couples, will find out today if he has won his legal case at the European Court of Human Rights.
Gary McFarlane is one of four British Christians who claim they lost their jobs as a result of discrimination against their beliefs.
They include an airline worker stopped from wearing a cross and a registrar who did not want to marry gay people. The four insist their right to express their religious beliefs was infringed.
The government, which is contesting the claims, argues their rights are protected only in private.
The judgement could shape equality laws across Europe, with particular interest in the judges’ interpretation of how the provision for ‘freedom of thought, conscience and religion’ under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act translates into practical protection.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre which is directly supporting Mr McFarlane, said: “These are landmark cases and we have waited a long time to get to this point. At stake is not only the future shape of Christian involvement in community life but the protection of important personal freedoms in a diverse society.”
The former Relate therapist Mr McFarlane, from Hanham, was sacked in 2008. He said he had never refused to provide sex therapy to a ‘live couple’ but had told his managers that if the issue arose he would discuss it with them. The Employment Tribunal held that he had not been discriminated against on the basis of his faith.