A British tribunal has ruled that employers must treat strongly held views on climate change practices the same as they would religious beliefs:
Senior executive Tim Nicholson claimed he was unfairly dismissed by a property investment company because his views on the environment conflicted with other managers’ “contempt for the need to cut carbon emissions”.
In the first case of its kind, an employment tribunal decided that Nicholson, 41, had views amounting to a “philosophical belief in climate change”, allowing him the same legal protection against discrimination as religious beliefs.
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“[My belief] affects how I live my life including my choice of home, how I travel, what I buy, what I eat and drink, what I do with my waste, and my hopes and fears,” he said. “For example, I no longer travel by plane, I have eco-renovated my home, I compost my food waste and encourage others to reduce their carbon emissions.”
Judge David Sneath said at the employment tribunal: “[Nicholson] has certain views about climate change and acts upon those views in the way in which he leads his life. In my judgment his belief goes beyond a mere opinion.”
The decision, which is being challenged by the company, comes two years after the law on religious discrimination was changed so that beliefs no longer had to be “similar” to religious faith to receive protection in the workplace.
Under the new law “philosophical belief” is protected by the law alongside religious belief if it passes a legal test requiring it to be cogent, serious and “worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
While the application of the statute is absurd, I don’t think the underlying motivation is completely wrong-headed. Some philosophical beliefs should be treated the same as religious beliefs because they truly are religious beliefs. The problem in this case is that the ruling allows a doctrinal belief (“a philosophical belief in climate change”) to stand in for the underlying worldview (i.e., environmentalism) on which it is premised.
As a society we may determine that environmentalism is a religious worldview (or at least a substitute religion) and that it is “cogent, serious, and worthy of respect.” Only then will we be able to determine what doctrines and practices that follow from that belief are deserving of legal protection. Otherwise there is no way to determine whether a particular action (e.g., refusing to travel by airplane) is truly motivated by the religious belief. How do we know that is isn’t a political or consumer decision? How would we know if it wasn’t merely a fear of flying?
I have no problem with a belief system being treated with the same deference and respect as established religions—provided they are willing to submit themselves to the same scrutiny and evaluation of how they are allowed to be applied in the public square. For example, if believing in climate change is a protected belief, then its antithesis—disbelief in climate change—must also be protected. Is that really the game environmentalists want to play?
(Via: The Evangelical Ecologist)