A major complaint against the current legislation that prohibits discrimination in employment or training on the grounds of religion or belief has been that it fails to explain precisely what is meant by religion or religious belief.
Some religious groups believe that the legislation doesn’t go far enough in protecting them against discrimination, but Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe clearly believes the Royal Navy has gone too far as an equal opportunity employer in officially recognising 24-year-old Chris Cranmer as a Satanist.
By recognising Cranmer and his beliefs, the Navy is allowing him to perform Satanic rituals aboard the HMS Cumberland where he serves. The Navy has given him space on board the ship to perform Satanic rituals. If killed in action, Cranmer, as a result of being a registered Satanist, can have a Satanist funeral.
Widdecombe told ITN News: “What they [sailors] believe and do in their own home is one thing, what they do at work is the business of their employer.” She seems to be missing the point of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.
The regulations make it the employer’s business to not discriminate against employees on the basis of religion or belief. Particularly while a ship is at sea, it would likely be hard to make a successful legal case that Cranmer had not been discriminated against if he was not allowed to practice his beliefs and followers of more mainstream beliefs were granted that right.
As long as Cranmer’s rituals don’t promote hatred or involve violating the human rights of another, the Navy is fulfilling not only the letter, but the spirit of the law.
All organisations should, therefore, follow the sensible example set by the Navy, or else risk a court case.