Court Ruling on Environment – the New Religion

Written by CCFON.org


l_lawCourt Ruling on Environment - the New Religion - is a clear sign of ‘social, moral and legal chaos'

A court ruling, giving an executive the right to sue his employer on the basis that he was unfairly dismissed for his 'green views' has been criticised by the Christian Legal Centre.

In a controversial decision, the judge ruled that 'environmentalism' had the same weight in law as religious and philosophical beliefs.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Barrister and Director of CLC said: "When a society loses her cultural Christian heritage she loses her anchors in the law and we end up with social, moral and legal chaos with any and every view competing in the public and legal square for a place.

"This decision has a real irony about it: whilst the Court seems to be simply extending the definition of what is regarded as 'religion', implying that what is basically a scientific experiment should be respected as much as the historic, community-enhancing and establishment-linked main stream religion, the very same judiciary are failing spectacularly, month by month, in safeguarding the fundamental religious rights of Christians."

Tim Nicholson, 42 and from Oxford, had told a previous court hearing that his views were so strong that he refused to travel by air and had renovated his house to be environmentally-friendly.

In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that "a belief in man-made climate change... is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations".  The ruling could open the door for employees to sue their companies for failing to account for their green lifestyles, such as providing recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel.

John Bowers QC, representing Mr Nicholson's employers, had argued that adherence to climate change theory was "a scientific view rather than a philosophical one", because "philosophy deals with matters that are not capable of scientific proof."

That argument has now been dismissed by Mr Justice Burton, who last year ruled that the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore was political and partisan.

The decision allows the Employment Tribunal to go ahead, but more importantly, sets a precedent for how environmental beliefs are regarded in English law.

Mr Nicholson hailed the Employment Appeals Tribunal ruling as "a victory for common sense" but stressed climate change was "not a new religion".

He said: "I believe man-made climate change is the most important issue of our time and nothing should stand in the way of diverting this catastrophe.

"This philosophical belief that is based on scientific evidence has now been given the same protection in law as faith-based religious belief.

"Belief in man-made climate change is not a new religion, it is a philosophical belief that reflects my moral and ethical values and is underlined by the overwhelming scientific evidence."

The grounds for Mr Nicholson's case stem from changes to employment law made by Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, in the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003. The regulations effectively broaden the protection to cover not just religious beliefs or those "similar" to religious beliefs, but philosophical beliefs as well.

On 4 November 2009, Lord Warner spoke in a House of Lords debate referrring to the case.  He said:

'This is a major change of ruling by the courts and the BBC might like to ponder that ruling when considering its [religious] programming arrangements.  I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.'

Andrea Minichiello Williams added: "At a time when the Government is playing politics with religion, society should be able to look to the Courts for balanced, carefully thought-out judgments, not more political correctness".

Media links

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Spectator (Commentary)

Christian Concern for our Nation (CCFON) is an organisation that exists to serve the Church by providing information to enable Christians to stand up publicly against a tide of unchristian legal and political changes in the United Kingdom. It brings together focused legal, policy and media expertise and strategic intervention in order to secure favourable legal and political outcomes in areas of concern. In addition, the organisation acts as a rallying point for those concerned with these issues and a place where individual members of the public and organisations will be able to seek assistance and advice.

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