Accommodating Intolerant Speech: Religious Free Speech Versus Equality and Diversity

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When one fundamental human right conflicts with another, the law has to maintain a balance between both rights, and ensure that on the facts the strongest claim succeeds. In most cases, no one right enjoys trump status over the other and proportionality decides whether the interference with one right is justified by the exercise of the other. That conflict is more complex when free speech or the manifestation of religious views conflict with the duty to promote equality and diversity. When that conflict occurs, the courts, both domestic and European, have tended to give preference to equality policies at the expense of individual speech and beliefs. However, the situation may be different when the person’s views fall short of discriminating against another, and the speaker simply voices an opinion against the other right holder. This article examines UK and European Convention case law in this area; both in terms of accommodating religious free speech and beliefs in the enforcement of equality and diversity policies, and more specifically in regulating anti-gay speech. Specifically, it will ask whether the principle of tolerance inherent in free speech can be recognised when such speech conflicts with the tolerance and respect that should be shown to minority groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-625
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean human rights law review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in European Human Rights Law Review, following peer review. The definitive published version Foster, S 2019, 'Accommodating Intolerant Speech: Religious Free Speech Versus Equality and Diversity', European Human Rights Law Review, vol. 2019, no. 6, pp. 609-625 is available online on Westlaw UK.


  • human rights
  • free speech
  • religion
  • balancing of rights


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