Is Veganism a Religion?

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If you thought the Church of Tree Hugging was stretching the bounds of religious accommodation, what about veganism? How far are religious beliefs going to stretch to accommodate everyone’s beliefs? How about a recent case where a customer service rep in a hospital was fired for refusing to take a ‘flu shot. He said that because the vaccine was grown in chicken eggs, accepting the vaccine would “violate his veganism dietary rules”. He stated that his veganism is a “moral and ethical belief that is sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views and therefore protected under the Equality Act.” To strengthen this, he stated, with sincerity, that veganism equated to a religious view by producing an essay titled “The Biblical Basis of Veganism.” Where, according to Genesis, the initial diet of humanity was a vegan diet. The employer wanted to justify its mandatory vaccination program and provided proof that should he refuse his flu jab, that being in contact with patients could be high risk. This is an important reminder to all employers to train managers to respond carefully and respectfully to any request for religious accommodation, no matter how far-fetched it might seem. So What Is a Religious Practice? According to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which provides in Article 9, a right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief … only to such limitations as are prescribed by law”. Religious discrimination also includes discrimination against an individual because he or she is an atheist. The fact that an individual’s beliefs are not embraced by any religious group, or are not accepted by the religious group to which the individual professes to belong, will not determine whether the belief is a religious one. However, beliefs are not protected merely because they are sincerely held. According to the ECHR, religion could include ideas about “life, purpose, and death.” (And diet, apparently.)

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