Today's Court of Appeal ruling, by Lord Justice Laws, represents a powerful rejection of such special religious privileges, and a staunch defence of equality before the law. Here's a key extract:
"The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary. We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens; and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic. The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law; but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.You can read the full judgement online. Welcoming the ruling, Naomi Phillips of the British Humanist Association said:
So it is that the law must firmly safeguard the right to hold and express religious belief; equally firmly, it must eschew any protection of such a belief's content in the name only of its religious credentials. Both principles are necessary conditions of a free and rational regime. As I have shown Lord Carey's statement also contains a plea for a special court. I am sorry that he finds it possible to suggest a procedure that would, in my judgment, be deeply inimical to the public interest."
"Lord Justice Laws’ decision shows Lord Carey’s statement for what it is – a desperate cry from those unrepresentative few who are trying to retain the kind of privileges for religion that have no place in our modern, liberal and democratic society. A clear message has been sent out, that there can be no 'opt out' from the law for those individuals, such as this counsellor, who do not wish to treat people equally on the basis of their religious beliefs."