Adam has a "philosophical belief" that the fairness of most forms of discrimination is debatable, as a special case of his belief that most anything should be debatable in a democratic society. He expresses this belief to Bob, who condemns the belief and cuts off communication. Did Bob discriminate against Adam?

In particular,

  1. does the belief (assuming its sincerity) qualify as a protected "philosophical belief"?
  2. would Bob's action be considered discriminatory if it were in response to some other protected characteristic such as race?

From the EHRC guide:

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  • Is this a workplace situation, or just between two private individuals?
    – Ron Beyer
    May 28, 2021 at 13:17
  • @RonBeyer Workplace.
    – mjc
    May 28, 2021 at 13:52
  • Worth considering: Bob cut off communication with Adam not because of Adam's philosophical beliefs, but rather because Adam's "philosophical beliefs" are obviously just a less unpalatable manifestation of his fascism.
    – bdb484
    May 28, 2021 at 18:59
  • 2
    @bdb484 Bob may have thought that, but I don't think that's a fair statement of Adam's position. Matters of discrimination involve balancing competing interests, and the scales may be biased either way, so to say that matters of discrimination are usually debatable is to say relatively little. One could as easily make the charge of fascism against the position that such matters are not debatable, since that entails giving virtually unlimited power to those who make and administer the law. Whether Adam's view is actually "incompatible with human dignity" is part of the point of the question.
    – mjc
    May 29, 2021 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


Under The Equality Act 2010 §13(1),

A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.

Religion or belief is listed as a protected characteristic under §4. However it is not established that the described characteristic is a "belief" in the relevant legal sense. See Grainger plc and others v Nicholson, which established criteria for deeming an ordinary belief to be a protected belief:

The belief must be genuinely held.

It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.

It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

It is established, then, that belief (ergo disbelief) in man-made climate change is a protected belief. Similarly, ethical veganism (and its denial) is a protected belief (Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports). This article lists as additional established protected beliefs:

Left wing democratic socialism

The sanctity of life, extending to a fervent anti-foxhunting and anti-hare coursing belief

A genuine and deeply held belief in Scottish independence

A belief in spirituality and the ability of mediums to communicate with the dead

The “higher purpose” of public service broadcasting in promoting cultural interchange and social cohesion

Public service and the need to engender in others a desire and commitment to serve the community for the common good

That it is wrong to lie under any circumstance

The United Kingdom should not be ruled by a hereditary monarch but should be a democratic and secular republic

Your cited belief is not on the list, but you could try to make law with a test case.

Beyond the determination that something is discrimination, consequences for any part would also have to prove that the discrimination is prohibited. Under the Equality Act §39, for work, that means "An employer (A) must not discriminate against a person (B)", which is to say if Adam and Bob are customers in the lobby, neither party will be sanctioned, nor will they if they are employees of Timmy. So I assume that Bob is Adam's employer.

  • 1
    The last part seems like the most important. Even though it may be discrimination by the statutory definition, discrimination is only illegal in specific defined situations. If Adam and Bob are just two random friends, and Bob decides to quit being friends with Adam on account of Adam's philosophical beliefs, that is perfectly legal, because there is no law saying you can't discriminate when choosing your friends. For that matter, it is even legal for Bob to quit being friends with Adam on account of Adam's race. May 28, 2021 at 16:18
  • On which basis do you state that denial of climate change is a protected belief? (Expanded as question here: law.stackexchange.com/questions/89419/…) Feb 19, 2023 at 0:11
  • It is in the OP, at the very bottom.
    – user6726
    Feb 19, 2023 at 1:02
  • Considering people have been arrested for beliefs in some items on the list (that last one), I'm sceptical about that article. Feb 19, 2023 at 18:39

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