European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judges have rejected appeals lodged by three British Christians who argued that their individual rights to express religious beliefs had been breached.

Shirley Chaplin, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane all lost their cases in the ECtHR in January of this year and last week attended the court again to appeal the verdicts.

The appeal judges ruled that the employers of Chaplin, a nurse, were indeed justified in forbidding her to wear a crucifix while at work on health and safety grounds.

The cases of Ladele and McFarlane were more complicated, since they depended upon balancing their rights against the convention rights of others.

Ladele, a registrar, had declined to conduct a civil partnership ceremony on the article 9 grounds of freedom of thought, conscience and religion. McFarlane, invoking the same article, said he did not want to undertake sex therapy sessions with same-sex couples.

The appeal judges ruled that their refusals breached the convention rights of the civil partnership and sex therapy couples, namely the article 14 prohibition on discrimination and the article 8 right to respect for private and family life.

City firm Charles Russell employment head Michael Powner said: ‘This sends a stark message that religious freedoms have very limited parameters when they potentially or actually infringe the rights of others.

‘When different convention rights compete in different factual scenarios, the line has to be drawn somewhere. What is now certain is that one set of rights, here for religious freedom for Christians, does not automatically trump the others.’