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Mr Nicholson, 42, from Oxford, smiles after he emerges victorious from the court room. A court ruled that it was wrong for Mr. Nicholson's employer to fire him for his belief in global warming, as it was a philosophy afforded equal protections to religion. Mr. Nicholson refuses to fly for fear of carbon pollution.  (Source: Telegraph UK)
When it comes to climate change, just have a little faith!

In an unusual case in the United Kingdom, it has been ruled that climate change beliefs should be afforded the same legal protections as religious freedoms. The bizarre ruling sets a landmark legal precedent and could have broad implications both in Britain and abroad.

The case began when Tim Nicholson, former head of sustainability at property firm Grainger PLC was laid off in July 2008 for his criticism of management on the basis of climate change beliefs. Mr. Nicholson, who renovated his house to be greener and refuses to fly by air, was upset that Rupert Dickinson, the firm's chief executive, had an employee fly to him in Ireland to deliver his Blackberry.

When Mr. Nicholson began to gripe and express his environmental sentiments, he was later dismissed. He took his former employers to court, contending that the same laws that protect religious freedoms protected his “philosophical belief about climate change and the environment.”

His employers contended that climate change was a scientific, not a religious or philosophical belief, and thus not legally protected. Mr. Nicholson, however, insisted that climate change was a philosophical belief as “philosophy deals with matters that are not capable of scientific proof.” His lawyer, Shah Qureshi, head of employment law at Bindmans LLP, added that to not grant AGW beliefs the same protections as religion would mean “that the more evidence there is to support your views, the less likely it would be for you to enjoy protection against discrimination.”

That theory was put to the test in an unusual court case and in the end Mr. Nicholson prevailed. Justice Michael Burton who delivered the ruling, ironically had used the same logic to hand a victory to climate skeptics over advocates of anthropogenic global warming theory seeking to show school children An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore.  The court, which Justice Burton served on, ruled that the move was a political, not a scientific work, and was unfit for the classroom. 

Mr Nicholson lauded the verdict, stating, “I believe man-made climate change is the most important issue of our time and nothing should stand in the way of diverting this catastrophe. This philosophical belief that is based on scientific evidence has now been given the same protection in law as faith-based religious belief. Belief in man-made climate change is not a new religion, it is a philosophical belief that reflects my moral and ethical values and is underlined by the overwhelming scientific evidence." 

His employers have vowed to appeal the decision. If it stands, however, it could have major legal affects in Britain and beyond. Affording environmental beliefs the same status as religion opens companies to suits from employees complaining about lack of recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel. It also prevents employers from dismissing employees from their environmental beliefs, even if they seem radical. 

In the U.S., similar protections exist for employment and religion/philosophy. The laws are certainly worded differently, but the British decision could embolden those seeking similar protections in the U.S. At the end of the day, the ruling forces society to be accept and cater to a variety of opinions on climate change and environmentalism, while at the same time making it harder for organizations, particularly government funded ones, to voice views on such topics.



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By FITCamaro on 11/4/2009 9:37:43 PM , Rating: 3
Agreed. While I don't agree with the legal outcome of this, I agree it pretty much is a religion. A bunch of people who believe in something they cannot prove exists (not knocking religion, just saying there's no "proof" god exists. i believe in one too).

Still absurd that this guy won. His employer dismissed him because he was openly critical of management. Regardless of the reason, that's grounds for being fired. And I'm sorry but in my mind, an employer can fire you for whatever reason they want. You are not entitled to your job (of course with our current government you're entitled to everything apparently).

And yes I've been let go because of a bullshit reason before too. Still doesn't change the fact that an employer doesn't not HAVE to employ you. They choose to employ you. And at any time, for any reason, they should be able to change their mind.


By thurston on 11/4/2009 10:00:36 PM , Rating: 1
Is your current place of employment at a business your family owns? Just curious.


By VaultDweller on 11/5/2009 9:06:40 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
And I'm sorry but in my mind, an employer can fire you for whatever reason they want.


I disagree very, very strongly. Your employer cannot and should not be able to fire you because, say, you're Russian, or you're married to a black woman (or you're black yourself), or because you're a Protestant, etc.

However, I do agree to disagree with the legal outcome of this trial. A person should not be fired for their beliefs, whether they're religious, political, or scientific. However, being fired for openly complaining and 'griping' about the actions of your employer is not the same as being fired for your beliefs.


By VaultDweller on 11/5/2009 9:13:14 AM , Rating: 2
Wait a second, I (maybe) take that back.

I didn't notice in the article that this guy was the 'head of sustainability' at the company.

That sounds to me like complaining about such wasteful actions was his freaking job and he was fired for doing his job.

Further, I'd speculate that he was hired only for the PR benefits of being able to claim that they're a 'green' company. Sounds like they expected him to sit in his office with his thumb up his butt, looking pretty to appease hippies, but then they decided to back down on that plan when they realized he was actually going to do what he was allegedly hired for.


By corduroygt on 11/5/2009 12:44:42 PM , Rating: 2
I'm curious to why you don't believe in climate change but believe in a God? A sensible person wouldn't believe in lies and fairy tales. (I believe in neither btw)


By Steve1981 on 11/5/2009 1:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
A sensible person wouldn't believe in lies and fairy tales.


A sensible person wouldn't needlessly antagonize others based on their religious beliefs either. In any case, one doesn't need to believe in lies and fairy tales to believe in a God. I simply look at the wonders of the world around me and can have faith in some manner of God all of my own accord.


By FITCamaro on 11/6/2009 1:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
Because I think everything had to come from somewhere. Otherwise you're saying the universe just popped into existence out of nothing purely by chance. I don't follow any particular faith anymore, but I believe that at some point in time, something, somewhere had to have started everything.

What "that" was is a question that, if we ever know the answer to, we'll never be able to tell anyone because we'll be dead (heaven and all that if it exists).


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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