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It takes a moment to work this out. Religitigation is a blend of religion and litigation. It is a specifically British term that refers to legal action that sets the faith-based views of religious groups against human-rights and other legislation that prohibits discrimination. Someone engaged in such a case is a religitigant.

Recent cases include that of a Christian registrar who failed to exempt herself from conducting civil partnerships ceremonies for gay couples. A Jewish school in London took a case to the supreme court over its decision to refuse admission to a pupil but lost on the grounds that its decision amounted to race discrimination. An airline employee lost her claim to the right to wear a crucifix at work. A Muslim child in Wales failed to claim the right to wear the jilbab at school when school rules specified the shalwar kameez. Two Christian hoteliers lost a discrimination case against a gay couple whom they refused to allow to occupy a double-bedded room.

The term has been around for at least the past couple of years. It is currently restricted to legal and human-rights circles and it is rare to see it in the press.

If there is one clear trend in contentious litigation in recent months, it is the increase in cases that pit the rights of religious communities against the prohibition on discrimination. “Religitigation”, as it is becoming known, is manifest in increasingly diverse ways.

The Guardian, 23 Jan. 2011.

They were the victims of what I’m tempted to call the religitigation culture, and their case shows that religious believers themselves can be the victims of it just as much as anyone else.

headoflegal.com, 16 Dec. 2009.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 19 Feb. 2011

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 19 February 2011.