Mr Justice Burton decided that, “A belief in man-made climate change, and the alleged resulting moral imperatives, is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations.”
While it was good to see Mr Nicholson (who claims he was selected for redundancy because of his environmentalist views regarding man-made climate change) win the right to bring his claim to an Employment Tribunal, using the 2003 regulations, the ruling opens up some bizarre possibilities. As one legal expert told the Guardian: “It’s a great decision. Why should it only be religions which are protected?” Why, indeed? The problem is that the way the 2003 Regulations are worded is, in fact a recipe for irrationality, dogmatism and superstition. Protection can only be granted to religions and (now) beliefs that are founded upon a similarly irrational basis.
In his written judgement Mr Justice Burton outlined five tests to determine whether a philosophical belief could recieve protection under the 2003 Regulations:
1/ The belief must be genuinely held.
2/ It must be a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available.
3/ It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life.
4/ It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
5/ It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
Humanism was cited as an example meeting the criteria, while belief in a political party or Jedi knights, apparently, do not. But why? As has been pointed out in some letters to the Graun today, this ruling creates an “epistemological nightmare”, encouraging dogmatism and (see especially point 2 above) irrationality.
I fail to see how points 3 and 5 can be consistently or objectively applied or how (for instance) members of the BNP or Hizb ut Tahrir can be denied legal protection for their beliefs as a result of this ruling.
Mr Nicholson’s environmentalist views may be admirable, and his selection for redundancy by nasty property developers, unfair (that last matter will now be decided by an Employment Tribunal), but this decision is a nonsense. It’s true that it never made any sense to give religion protection under the 2003 Regulations, while denying protection to political and philosophical beliefs. This ruling has ironed out that inconsistency, but in doing so exposed the 2003 Regulations as ridiculous, irrational nonsense . They were, of course originally motivated by New Labour’s desire to appease religious fundamentalists who were campaigning to get religion placed on a par with race in the eyes of the law and society as a whole.
There is only one way out of this “epistemological nightmare”: get rid of the Religion and Belief Regulations altogether.