Christians take discrimination cases to Europe's top court

By Richard Allen Greene CNN LONDON (CNN) 4 Christians say they suffered at work or lost jobs because of their beliefs

Two wanted to wear crosses openly, while two didn't want to provide services to gay couples

They lost their battles in the British legal system, pushing their case to Europe's top court

The ruling could draw a line between religious beliefs and anti-discrimination laws

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta/+1-404-827-WIRE(9473) Four British Christians are urging Europe's top court Tuesday to rule that they faced discrimination because of their religious beliefs.

Two women accuse their employers of refusing to let them wear crosses openly at work.

Alongside them, a woman who declined to register gay civil partnerships and a man who did not want to give sex therapy to same-sex couples say they were unfairly dismissed from their jobs.

All four are now fighting the British government, claiming it failed to protect their rights.

The case at the European Court of Human Rights could help to draw a clear boundary in cases where religious views contradict laws against discrimination. It will have implications across 47 countries on the continent.

The four -- Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, who wanted to wear crosses; registrar Lilian Ladele, and relationship counselor Gary McFarlane -- have lost every round of their battles through the British legal system.

They're now making their claims under European human rights law, focusing on guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination at work.

Eweida works for British Airways, which changed its policy on uniforms to allow employees to wear religious or charity symbols.

But Chaplin, a nurse, ultimately lost her job after her employer changed its uniforms to include v-necks which made her cross visible. Her manager asked her to remove it for fear it could lead to injury when she was working with patients, according to court papers.She refused.

Both women lost their cases in British employment tribunals.

Eweida's tribunal ruled that wearing a cross was a personal choice, not a requirement of Christianity, while Chaplin's tribunal found there were legitimate health and safety reasons to bar her from wearing the symbol around her neck.

Ladele and McFarlane also lost employment tribunal battles, with the tribunals finding that their employers could require them to perform their jobs.

Their employers were entitled refuse to accommodate religious views which contradicted British laws banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the tribunals found.

All four Christians were denied hearings further up the British legal chain, pushing their cases to the European Court in Strasbourg.

Its rulings normally take months after a case is argued.