What is covered by the term ‘Religion’?
Religion or Belief is one of the protected characteristics contained in Section 4 of the Equality Act 2010.
For the purpose of the Act ‘religion’ means any religion and a reference to religion includes a reference to a lack of religion. Those religions currently included in the UK Census are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. Other religions include Bahá'í, Rastafari, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.
Some major religions are sub-divided into denominations, such as Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Sunni and Shia. Denominations or sects within a religion may be treated as distinct religions in the application of the provisions of the Equality Act.
What is covered by the term ‘Belief’?
For the purpose of the Equality Act 2010, ‘belief’ means any religious or philosophical belief and includes a lack of belief.
‘Religious belief’ goes further than beliefs about and adherence to a religion or its central articles of faith and may vary from person to person within the same religion.
A belief may also be a philosophical belief, such as Humanism or Atheism. It may extend to a belief such as the sanctity of life extending to a fervent anti fox hunting belief but this would depend very much on the facts of the case.
As set out in the Employment and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Employment Statutory Code of Practice, in order to qualify for protections under the Equality Act 2010, a philosophical belief must:
- Be genuinely held.
- Be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
- Be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
- Attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
- Be worthy of respect in a democratic society and not incompatible with human dignity and/or conflict with the fundamental rights of others.