The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has called for judges dealing with cases where religious beliefs and homosexuality clash to step aside.

Lord Carey submitted a witness statement in the case of Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane, who was sacked for refusing to work with gay couples.

He said such cases should be heard by a panel of five judges with understanding of religious issues. Mr McFarlane’s case was heard today in the Court of Appeal.

In the witness statement, Lord Carey wrote: “Recent decisions of the courts have illuminated insensitivity to the interests and needs of the Christian community and represent disturbing judgments.

“The effect of these decisions is to undermine the religious liberties that have existed in the United Kingdom for centuries.”

Lord Carey was referring to recent cases over Christian registrars refusing to officiate civil partnerships.

Other religious discrimination cases he cited have involved employees being barred from wearing crosses at work, or nurses facing disciplinary action for offering to pray for patients.

He added that the decisions were “dangerous” to the social order and even went as far as to suggest they could lead to “civil unrest”.

Lord Carey wrote: “This type of ‘reasoning’ is dangerous to the social order and represents clear animus to Christian beliefs. The fact that senior clerics of the Church of England and other faiths feel compelled to intervene directly in judicial decisions and cases is illuminative of a future civil unrest.”

The judge representing Mr McFarlane also claimed Britain would see “civil unrest” over court cases which give precedent to the rights of other minorities over Christians.

Paul Diamond said: “There will be a collision between the established faith of this land and judicial decisions which will lead to civil unrest.”

Last month, a Christian registrar who was disciplined because she would not officiate civil partnerships was refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Lillian Ladele resigned from Islington council in 2007 after being threatened with the sack. She claims she was a victim of discrimination because of her religious beliefs.

She is now considering whether to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Religious figures claim that her case shows that the rights of religious people come second to the rights of gay and lesbian people.

The law says that religious beliefs cannot be upheld at the expense of outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.