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Protecting the Absence of Religious Belief ? The New Definition of Religion or Belief in Equality Legislation

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The Equality Framework Directive requires member states to prohibit discrimination in employment on grounds of (inter alia) religion or belief. Defining the scope of the phrase 'religion or belief' is complicated and has given rise to debate in the United Kingdom, particularly with reference to belief which is not self-evidently 'religious'. The UK Regulations which implemented the Directive contained a definition referring to 'religion,… religious belief, and… similar philosophical belief'. This definition was subsequently changed, adding a specific reference to lack of belief, and removing the word 'similar'. This adds complexity to an already difficult area. This article considers the effect of these changes, identifies difficulties they cause and suggests a way of avoiding them.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Law at Sheffield Hallam University

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