The British government is set to argue at the European Court of Human Rights that Christians do not have the right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work.
But wait, Christians in the UK are not allowed to wear a cross, while Sikhs can wear turbans, and Muslims are free to don the hijab? What are we to make of this?
Furthermore, when a UK court banned the use of Christian prayers at public meetings recently, the Conservative government was up in arms.
So what’s going on?
Wearing A Crucifix Not A “Requirement” Of The Christian Faith
Apparently the government will argue that employers can ban the wearing of the cross and sack workers who insist on doing so because wearing the crucifix is not a “requirement” of the Christian faith.
He accused ministers and the courts of “dictating” to Christians and said it was another example of Christianity becoming sidelined in official life.
From The Telegraph:
The Strasbourg case hinges on whether human rights laws protect the right to wear a cross or crucifix at work under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
The Christian women bringing the case, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the symbols.
They want the European Court to rule that this breached their human right to manifest their religion.
The Government’s official response states that wearing the cross is not a “requirement of the faith” and therefore does not fall under the remit of Article 9.
Lawyers for the two women claim that the Government is setting the bar too high and that “manifesting” religion includes doing things that are not a “requirement of the faith”, and that they are therefore protected by human rights.
Last year it emerged that Mrs Eweida, a British Airways worker, and Mrs Chaplin, a nurse, had taken their fight to the European Court in Strasbourg after both faced disciplinary action for wearing a cross at work.
Eweida argued that British Airways allowed members of other faiths to wear religious garments and symbols.
Chaplin was barred from working on hospital wards after she refused to hide the cross she wore on a necklace chain, ending 31 years of nursing.
The Archbishop Of Canterbury Distances Himself
Separating himself from some of his Christian colleagues, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, seemed to undermine the case for wearing the crucifix when he said that for many Christians, it has become little more than jewellery, “which religious people make and hang on to” as a substitute for true faith.
Williams, speaking at a church service in Rome where he met the Pope on the weekend, said the cross had been stripped of its meaning as part of a tendency to manufacture religion.
A great comment to start a whole new chain of dialog!
This seems a strange position for the Government to take, given the rights of other religions to wear things signifying their faith. And it’s hard to see what they can gain by pursuing this ban on crosses. Or, indeed, how they can reconcile lauding Christian prayers in public and banning the wearing of a cross.
And all those crosses in Britain – will they soon rename Charing Cross?
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Mark Rantal