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Religion or belief (including no belief)

Religion or belief (including no belief and those with a philosophical belief) is a protected characteristic and can be the subject of direct discrimination and victimisation.

At the University we concentrate on the six major faith groups - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist - although we recognise there are many other beliefs and religions.

The Equality Act does not include a definition of religion. At the University we interpret this as including any religion of sufficient seriousness which has a clear structure and belief system such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, Baha’i, Jainism, Rastafarianism and Zoroastrianism.

A religion need not be mainstream or well known to be protected under the Act. In addition, denominations or systems of belief within religions, such as Methodism or Sabbatarianism within Christianity, or Sunni or Shia within Islam, are likely to be religions for the purposes of the Act.

The Act also recognises people without a religion, such as atheists, humanists and secularists.

A person who has a particular religion will also be protected if they are discriminated against because they lack another, different religion.

What is a philosophical belief?

A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but it must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.

For a philosophical belief to be protected under the Act it must be:

  • genuinely held;
  • a belief and not just an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
  • about a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance;
  • worthy of respect in a democratic society;
  • not incompatible with human dignity;
  • not in conflict with fundamental rights of others.

Beliefs such as humanism, pacifism, vegetarianism and the belief in man-made climate change are all protected. However, beliefs such as Holocaust denial, or the belief in racial superiority are not protected.