In a recently decided case, an employment tribunal has held that an
employee with membership of the British National Party could not be
afforded protection under the Employment Equality (Religion of Belief)
Regulations 2003 (the "Regs") as such membership does not constitute a
religion, a set of religious beliefs, or a set of similar philosophical
beliefs.

In Baggs v Fudge, the Tribunal heard that Mr. Baggs was not
interviewed for a job as a practice manager in a small medical practice
because he was an active member of the BNP. He brought a claim of
direct discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief under the
Regs. Discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief became
unlawful in employment and vocational training in December 2004 when
the Regs came into force.

The case turned on Reg 2(1), which defines religion or belief as
'any religion, religious belief, or similar philosophical belief'. The
tribunal dismissed Mr. Baggs' claim because he had failed to
demonstrate that he had a religion or belief, active membership of the
BNP not amounting to a religion or belief for these purposes.

The tribunal held that the BNP is 'peculiar' because it restricts
its membership on ethnic grounds, but that it does not require members
to belong to a particular religion or hold particular religious or
philosophical beliefs. It also held that the BNP is a political party
as it has political ends and fields candidates in elections. The fact
that it is not a typical political party did not assist Mr. Baggs'
claim as there are other parties that are not typical, such as the
Green Party. In addition, the BNP shares a number of aspirations with
other political parties in the United Kingdom despite only representing
the interests of certain racial groups.

In dismissing the claim, the tribunal ordered Mr. Baggs to pay
£1,400 towards the employer's costs of £2,800 on the basis that the
claim had no reasonable prospect of success. The Tribunal's decision
demonstrates a no-nonsense approach to speculative claims under the new
Regs, which may seem harsh to some given that there is little case law
on this to guide prospective claimants.

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