Vatican criticizes European religious freedom ruling

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican on Wednesday (Jan. 16) criticized a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that affirms employers’ right to limit the expression of religious beliefs in the workplace when it conflicts with equality laws.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign minister, said that on “morally controversial subjects, such as abortion or homosexuality,” people have the right to defend their freedom of conscience.

In what has been hailed as a landmark ruling, the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected three out of four appeals filed by Christians who had been fired or disciplined by their employers for behaviors connected to their faith.

The cases included a registrar who was disciplined for refusing to officiate the civil partnership of a same-sex couple, and a counselor who was sacked for denying sex therapy to gays.

The Strasbourg-based court also rejected the appeal of a nurse who had refused to remove a crucifix during work, while upholding the right of a British Airways hostess who had been disciplined for wearing a small cross on her uniform.

Mamberti didn’t comment on the specific cases. But he said that the court’s rulings show how complex the issues of freedom of conscience and religion have become in a European society marked by the increase of religious diversity and “the corresponding hardening of secularism.”

In this context, Mamberti added, societies face the risk of a “moral relativism” that threatens to “undermine the foundations of individual freedom of conscience and religion.”

Mamberti said the Catholic Church’s role on these issues is to “defend individual freedoms of conscience and religion in all circumstances, even in the face of the ‘dictatorship of relativism.’”

About the author

Alessandro Speciale

Alessandro Speciale has been covering the Vatican since 2007 and wrote for Religion News Service from 2011-2013. Born in Rome, he studied literature at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, and journalism at City University, London. He has appeared as an expert on Vatican affairs on CNN, BBC World and Al Jazeera English.


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  • Can someone explain to me how a HETEROSEXUAL, is going to offer SEX THERAPY… to a GAY GOUPLE?

    And frankly.. why wouldnt a GAY COUPLE want sex therapy from a GAY SEX THERAPIST??

  • Why couldn’t a heterosexual offer sex therapy to a gay couple? What’s so unique about what two men or two women do, that would exclude a heterosexual therapist? I’m not where you’re coming from, but where I have worked in the last 10+ years, the sexual orientation of the sex therapist was never relevent. What is relevent is the regard in which the therapist holds the clients. We have clients of all sexual orientations and identities seeking help from therapists.

  • @donaltraynor With all respect due, your argument is presumptive, circular and non-sensical. For instance, your comment “what is relevant is the regard in which the therapist holds the clients” assumes that a Christian heterosexual who believes homosexuality is sin therefore cannot provide “sex therapy” is holding a disregard for the homosexual client. You presume (with discrimination and intolerance to the world’s largest religions) that a Christian disregards the person needing counseling. This is a flawed view. If counseling is necessary, the Christian may out of love, indeed will, provide counseling that is truthful and loving, paying careful attention to the regard of the client. Regarding a client as a person who needs counseling help and sincere care is entirely different than conforming oneself to the client’s views.

    Not one licensed counselor may be required by any court to “accept” all identities and actions of clients. Clients seek counseling usually because they have admitted needs. The counselor is a professional who may indeed rely upon her/his training, experience, moral and religious considerations and various societal opportunities (such as therapy to change behaviors of all kinds) to seek to help a client.

    To deny a licensed counselor the professional ability to counsel freely those who voluntarily seek the counseling is nothing short of a statist silencing of free speech that will eventually bite itself.

  • The vatican (and all other denominations) have a severe superiority complex that is totally wrong. They are equal at most, probably inferior to

    The court ruling was right on. It should have gone even farther

  • It is totally wrong to deny someone the right to express their faith. “God made the mind free and free it shall remain.” – Thomas Jefferson. No person should be forced to do something contrary to their religious and moral beliefs. I am not Catholic, but I think it is time someone started speaking up about the loss of religious freedom. Religious freedom didn’t come easy, yet we give it up like it was nothing. Those of you who are bashing people for standing up for their faith should be ashamed. If you know anything about history, you would know that if you were born in the 16th century you would be forced to go to church. You wouldn’t be allowed to choose which denomination or even to decline God altogether. Court systems should have no say in whether or not a person should be denied a job because they express their faith. The ruling was an attack on freedom and should be repealed.