Religious belief and political opinion: access to goods, facilities or services
This section of the web site is about discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and political opinion in the provision of services.
Under the Fair Employment & Treatment (NI) Order 1998, it is unlawful for those who provide services to the public to discriminate against a person on grounds of religious belief and political opinion.
Who is protected?
The definition of religious belief or political opinion is as follows:
- Religion means any religion
- Judaism, Islam, Christianity, including Catholics and Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christianity; to name a few.
- Belief means any religious or philosophical belief
- Hinduism, Buddhism and philosophical themism; to name a few.
Reference to religion or belief includes a reference to a lack of religion or belief.
Courts will ultimately be responsible for interpreting the meaning of religion or belief.
- Political opinion means
- Nationalist, republican, loyalist or unionist
- Northern Ireland constitutional politics
- Any political opinion related to the conduct or government of the state, or matters of public policy
- Any lawful political party that does not endorse violence.
Reference to political opinion includes a reference to not holding any political opinions.
Courts will ultimately be responsible for interpreting the meaning of political opinion.
To what and to whom does the law apply?
Under the law it is unlawful for service providers to treat individuals less favourably than other people on grounds of religious belief and political opinion.
What is unlawful?
Under the law it is unlawful to discriminate on grounds of religious belief and political opinion in:
- The provision of goods, facilities and services
- Access to and use of any place which members of the public are permitted to enter
- Accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or other similar establishment
- Facilities by way of banking or insurance or for grants, loans or finance
- Facilities for training
- Facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment
- Facilities for transport or travel
- The services of any profession, trade or business open to the public.
Goods, facilities and services
It is unlawful for service providers to:
- Refuse to provide goods facilities or services, whether paid or unpaid;
- Or offer them at a lower quality;
- Or provide them in less favourable manner/terms;
on the grounds of religious belief and political opinion.
Disposal and management of premises and land
It is unlawful for anyone involved in the selling, letting or management of premises (including land) to discriminate on grounds of religious belief and political opinion.
- Selling of land and/or premises through advertisement or estate agent
- Letting of premises through an estate agent or landlord.
Under the law, universities or colleges cannot discriminate against prospective or actual students on grounds of religious belief and political opinion.
- Applying to a university/institution of further education;
- Access to benefits in a university/institution of further education.
Exercise of public functions
The law makes it unlawful for a public authority, in carrying out its functions to discriminate on grounds of religious belief and/or political opinion. This covers functions not otherwise covered by the service provisions of the Fair Employment & Treatment (NI) Order 1998. Function is the term used to describe activities of public authorities, and includes a public authority´s powers and duties.
- Restriction of membership and participation in activities of an organisation, club or faith group.
- Charities set up to provide benefit to members of a particular religion or belief community.
- Disposal and management of premises and land does not apply to people renting a room in their home where they still reside.
Cases taken under religious belief and political opinion
Below are some cases of discrimination occurring in the provision of goods, facilities and services. Click on the link to take you to the case for information:
Philip McKelvey -v- Kathleen McDermott
John Dallat -v- Jackie and Cindy Chan, Liam McIvor T/A Century 21 McIvor Homes (link to case)
Jamal Iweida -v- Prison Service (link to case)
Teresa Murray -v- Radison Roe Hotel (link to case)
McConkey & Marks -v- Simon Community
Where to get advice?
The Equality Commission can provide free, confidential information, advice and guidance on a range of equality issues including the Fair Employment & Treatment (NI) Order 1998 and its implications in the provision of goods, facilities and services. Information can be provided through telephone, textphone and booklet or we can meet with you.Click here to access the publication, Religious Belief and Political Opinion discrimination law in Northern Ireland - a short guide.
The Commission can also provide tailored training for service providers on how to comply with equality legislation - please contact the Promotion and Education Division of the Equality Commission for details.