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Church leaders head for showdown with top judges over bias against Christians

Senior figures in the Church of England are forcing an unprecedented showdown with the judiciary over an allegation that some of the country’s most senior judges are prejudiced against Christianity.

By Andrew Alderson

04/11/2010 UK ( Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and other church leaders will urge senior judges to stand down from future Court of Appeal hearings because of “disturbing” and “dangerous” rulings they issued in recent religious discrimination cases.

Senior churchmen do not think they have any chance of a “fair” ruling if the latest significant hearing – due on Thursday – is heard in front of those judges who, they argue, have already shown a lack of understanding of Christian beliefs.

Lord Carey and others will this week support a formal application by lawyers acting for Gary McFarlane, a Christian relationship counsellor, that a specialist panel of five judges with a proven understanding of religious issues and headed by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, should be established to hear his case and future cases involving religious rights.

In the most recent high-profile case, Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards for wearing a crucifix around her neck, last week lost her religious discrimination case against her employers.

“The effect of these decisions is to undermine the religious liberties that have existed in the United Kingdom for centuries. These decisions affect the fundamental freedoms of every UK citizen and this is now a critical election issue.

It is vital that the major parties address this matter and give it the central platform it deserves.”

Some senior Muslims also believe that Christians in Britain receive a bad deal.

Dr Taj Hargey, the Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, wrote last week: “Christianity is under siege in this country. Britain ‘s national religion has never been so marginalised and derided by the public institutions that should be defending it.”

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