Readers may be interested in the news that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has just published research on religion or belief in the workplace and public services. The research, which was carried out for the Commission by London Metropolitan University, found that there were tensions between some religious and secular views on equality and human rights law in these settings (so no surprise there, then) and suggests that most people want ground rules to mediate public debate and want to avoid unnecessary litigation.
The report, Religion or belief, equality and human rights in England and Wales, suggests that though the evidence relating to the religion or belief “landscape” is contradictory, there has definitely been a decline in affiliation to historic churches, a rise in those stating that they have no religion and an increase in faiths associated with post-war and postcolonial immigration, especially Islam. The report also notes the growth of independent and black majority churches and the greater significance attached to their religion by minority religious communities compared to those who declare themselves to be Christians .
The research found scant evidence about whether or not there is discrimination against “belief” as such; however, there is greater a prevalence of discrimination (by any measure) against Muslims than against other groups defined by their religion (sections 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5). There did not appear to be evidence to substantiate such claims “at a structural level” of discrimination against Christians.
Specifically, the report suggests that further empirical research is needed to examine the impact of what the researchers describe as “minority legal orders” on those that use them or who are affected by them. It also suggests that there is a need to strengthen the protections presently offered by the Arbitration Act 1996 to users of religious tribunals to ensure that they are not deprived of their right to equality at law.