Nuanced rulings

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The European Court of Human Rights gave a series of nuanced rulings on the four cases of religious discrimination passed on to it by a somewhat hesitant British judiciary (your report, 17 January). While conservative Christians concentrate on Nadia Eweida winning the right to wear a cross while working as a desk clerk with BA, the other rulings are less welcome.

Nurse Shirley Chaplin lost on the justifiable grounds of patient safety because the hospital’s new V-neck uniforms meant that overhanging jewellery posed a risk.

And, as expected, the court supported the Western liberal stance of John Stuart Mill – we can say and believe what we like as long as our actions do not infringe on the rights of others.

It recognised religious freedom as a vital human right but not as an absolute right because some religious views clearly impinge upon the equally valid rights of others.

Thus the sackings of marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane and registrar Lillian Ladele were confirmed because they could not function without discriminating against gay people.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews

Robert Canning (Letters, 18 January) struck at the heart of any sensible tolerant give-and-take in the workplace with his comment: “I would leave the job rather than request that my colleagues commit my share of the immoral actions.”

Of course, conscientious objectors to, for example, abortion, do not “request” that their colleagues carry out their “share” of abortions for them.

They would rather no-one performed them.

However, they accept that abortion is legal and supplied by the NHS on demand, but do not wish to participate personally. The current law makes allowances for this – a fine example of tolerance and sensible accommodation.

With regard to gay rights in the workplace, however, a hard-line, simplistic “equality” dogma often allows for no such compromise, instead seeing dissenters as sinister heretics deserving the harshest punishment.

I guess that, in a few years’ time, arranging for patients to use prostitutes will be part of the role of health professionals.

Does Mr Canning believe that all Christian NHS staff should resign at that point, in case they are ever asked to help with such an arrangement?

If ever assisted suicide is legalised, should all nurses unwilling to be involved also resign?

Secularists often object to being labelled “hard line”, but Mr Canning’s extreme black-and-white approach justifies that label.

Richard Lucas