Gary McFarlane, 48, from Bristol triggered a heated court fight when he challenged his termination as a counselor with Relate Avon, a counseling service, due to his religious conflict with assisting homosexual couples. An English court ruled against him in a case that led to sharp condemnations on both sides. In a statement that drew objections from the court, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey called for judges to handle the case who show greater appreciation for religious individuals.
We have been following the growing tension between anti-discrimination laws and free speech/association rights, here.
Relate Avon was founded in 1938 and originally called the National Marriage Guidance Council. It has offices around England to assist couples.
McFarlane was hired by Relate in May 2003 and was suspended in October 2007 after voicing his difficulties in working with same-sex couples. He alleged in his wrongful dismissal lawsuit that the organization routinely accommodated conflicts expressed by other employees, such as those who had abuse in their backgrounds.
Religious leaders rallied to his side. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey went public with a call for judges with a “proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues” to hear the case. That would, of course, suggest picking judges on the basis for their views — a type of forum shopping for the religiously inclined.
Lord Justice Laws was probably not what Lord Carey had in mind. Laws called the protection of such views on the basis of religious freedom “irrational” as well as “divisive, capricious and arbitrary.”
Laws went after Lord Carey, calling his views “misplaced” and denying an anti-religious bias.