13 March 2019 | Copenhagen, Denmark [tedNEWS with Lasse Bech]
An Adventist High School teacher, who was fired for refusal to attend an ‘open house’ event on a Saturday, has had his claim upheld by the Danish Equal Treatment Board.
Their judgement that the school was in breach of the Equal Treatment Act made headlines in several Danish news services such as Ankestyrelsen. The leading newspaper for ethics and religions “Kristeligt Dagblad” ran the story on its front page.
The Seventh-day Adventist teacher, who specialises in physical education, had been asked to attend and participate in an open house event to promote the school. The institution felt it was of vital importance to present its physical education degree. As the only teacher specialised in this area, they chose to demand his attendance despite being fully aware of his religious convictions.
The teacher, who has not been named for legal reasons, highlighted that this had never been a problem on previous occasions as he had always been able to find a replacement to fill in on the event. On this occasion the Adventist teacher had prepared a detailed written description for a substitute teacher to follow and had also instructed senior students that were to participate and help at the event.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Denmark followed the story and supported the teacher throughout the process. The High School has been given 14 days to pay compensation to the teacher otherwise they will have to go to court.
”I am relieved that the case has been decided to our advantage,” states Thomas Müller, President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Denmark. “This verdict will be an encouragement to other members to stay faithful to their convictions. The Sabbath is a precious gift and blessing that we should uphold and defend,” he added.
Denmark has a long history of religious freedom, but there has been some uncertainty as to how well religious minorities are protected in the work place. “This case has made it clear that employers must practice reasonable accommodation towards the religious beliefs and practices of its employees,” states Lasse Bech, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Church in Denmark.
Bech notes that many workplaces promote themselves as having values that welcome religious and ethnic diversity. He recognises that in most cases institutions and companies are led by professional management that seek to find a pragmatic solution when the needs of the workplace conflict with a matter of conscience for one of its staff. He states, “A few employers are less tolerant, but rarely do we see someone losing their jobs because of this.”
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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