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Religious  Civil  &  Discrimination  Law

(Religious Harassment ) 

Following EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC which adopted a formal definition of  Harassment for Discrimination purposes the Government decided to adopt a modified form of the definition for all claims of Harassment under Discrimination law which is set out in  s22 of  The Equality Act 2010 

Reg 5  of the  The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003  (now repealed)  defined Harassment as follows

a person ("A") subjects another person ("B") to harassment where, on grounds of religion or belief, A engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of -

(a) violating B's dignity; or

(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.

(2) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in paragraph (1)(a) or (b) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of B, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.

How these regulations will work in practice remains to be seen. In s47 of the Equality Bill  the Government proposed to extend this definition of Harassment to allow claims outside of the workplace but was defeated in the House of Lords.  Fears were expressed that the definition was widely drafted and, though that might be acceptable in the workplace, it was dangerously wide for general use. For example it would be possible that someone writing or publishing a book or Newspaper which a member of a Religious Group considered violated their dignity could be sued for Harassment. 

The Government accepted these concerns and also the point that the  Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was the appropriate means of dealing with harassment outside the workplace.  The 1997 Act is often referred to as the "stalkers law" but is now widely used to deal with all types of harassment not merely stalking.  For example it has been used to sue a Newspaper  Esther Thomas - v - News Group Newspapers [2001] EWCA Civ 1233  over two articles it published which caused harassment. In the case of  Majrowski v. Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Trust [2006] UKHL 34  the House of Lords decided that Employers could be sued under the 1997 Act for Harassment carried out by their employees during the course of their employment.

The Act therefore can be used as a means of dealing with all forms of religious Harassment. For further discussion on the subject of Harassment generally and the possible use of The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 in cases involving Religious Harassment please go to my other Web site www.HarassmentLaw.co.uk.  There is also an American site giving examples of  how Harassment Law can be misused to limit Freedom of speech

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