Atheists and vegans will be protected by Equality Bill

Vegans and atheists should be afforded the same protection from discrimination as religious groups, guidance on the Equality Bill states.

The code of practice, prepared by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to help employers interpret the Bill, would also enable Rastafarians and Scientologists to be protected.

The code states: “A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.”

But the government has said it never intended “views or opinions” like veganism to be covered by the law, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The guidance follows a court ruling last November that climate change could legally be classed as a philosophical belief.

The draft code, which is currently under consultation, singles out vegans as meriting protection from religious discrimination.

It also states that the current definition of “belief” also included “a lack of belief”, giving protection to atheists.

It adds: “It is for tribunals to determine what constitutes a religion. Cults and new religious movements may also be religions.”

But the code adds that beliefs must “attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”, before being afforded this level of protection.

A spokesman for the Government Equality Office said the government did not share the view that climate change or veganism were religious beliefs, but added that interpretation was a matter for the courts.

The spokesman said: “The Equality Bill does not change the existing definition of religion or belief and the government does not think that views or opinions based on scientific – or indeed on political – theories can be considered to be akin to religious beliefs or philosophical beliefs. Nor was it the intention in introducing the legislation that such beliefs should be covered.”

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