European Employment Law Cases


2023/15 Appointment of military chaplains and religious discrimination (IR)

Keywords Religious Discrimination
Authors Karen Hennessy
Author's information

Karen Hennessy
Karen Hennessy is a solicitor at Mason Hayes & Curran LLP, Dublin.
  • Abstract

      An Irish Workplace Relations Commission (‘WRC’) adjudication has found that the complainant, who was an atheist, was discriminated against on grounds of religion. The respondent government department was ordered to review the process of appointing military chaplains to ensure compliance with the Irish Employment Equality Act 1998 (‘EEA’). The scope of this adjudication relates to the ability to apply for a role and whether this constituted discrimination on grounds of religion. The complainant asserted that he was discriminated against by the Department of Defence (the respondent) in the appointment of a military chaplain at Aiken Barracks and Gormanston Army Camp on 6 November 2020 as he was an atheist. The respondent denied the claim, relying on Section 37(2) of the EEA and the occupational requirements relating to chaplaincy to the Defence Forces, in particular the role of the chaplain in conflict zones, notably Lebanon. The respondent alleged that chaplains build contacts with local religious leaders and a Christian chaplain would be more accepted by certain communities in Lebanon than a humanist chaplain would be, and thus amounted to a ‘genuine occupational requirement’ within the meaning of Section 37(2) of the EEA.

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