Religion is a formalised system of belief that aims to relate humanity to spirituality. The definition of ‘belief’ means an inward conviction, something that is certain to someone and is usually understood to include religious and philosophical convictions, including lack of belief and atheism. Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the legal definition. (Source: Equalities and Human Rights Commission: protected characteristics definitions). (external link)
Within the NHS, the broader idea of the ‘spiritual’ has been embraced. It is defined as “a natural dimension of what it means to be human, which includes the awareness of self, or relationships with others and with creation”. (CEL (2008) 49 Spiritual Care, Scottish Government). (external link) Legislation
The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010 and provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.
There are nine ‘protected characteristics’ under the Act, including religion or belief. The new public sector equality duty in the Act came into force in April 2011. The duty places an obligation on public authorities to take action to eradicate discrimination, proactively promote equality of opportunity, and to foster good relations across relevant protected characteristics.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for someone to discriminate against you because of your religion or belief or because you have no religion or belief:
- in any aspect of employment
- when providing goods, facilities and services or
- when exercising public functions.
There are, however, some limited exceptions when discrimination may be lawful, for example, in provision of a service to meet particular needs of a group such as a church-based hospice. There are more examples on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
Under human rights and anti-discrimination legislation, you have the right to hold your own religious beliefs or other philosophical beliefs similar to a religion. You also have the right to have no religion or belief.
NHS Forth Valley Spiritual Care Centre
Spiritual Care is about having someone to listen to your story and help you deal with your experience. Members of the Spiritual Care Team are available to listen. They can be contacted (24/7) on 07824 460 882. Further information on the Spiritual Care Centre and a map of the location of the centre can be found here