A Cabinet minister has insisted the Government was right to contest a European legal challenge over religious freedom after four British Christians, including an Exeter nurse, took their fight to the European Court of Human Rights.
The four claim they were discriminated against because of their faith but Commons Leader Andrew Lansley said current laws "strike the right balance" and losing the cases would mean new restrictions on employers.
The court in Strasbourg, France, heard the cases of two workers forced out of their jobs after visibly wearing crosses, a Relate therapist sacked for saying he might not be comfortable giving sex counselling to homosexual couples, and a Christian registrar who wishes not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies. They argue the actions of their employers contravened articles nine and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibit religious discrimination and allow "freedom of thought, conscience and religion".
One of the cases heard was that of Nurse Shirley Chaplin, from Exeter, who was moved to a paperwork role by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust after refusing to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix.
The Strasbourg court, which heard the case on Tuesday, has reserved its judgment to a date yet to be set.