Wearing the cross


Court to decide if Christians can wear a cross openly at work
LONDON: The British government is set to argue that Christians do not have the right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work, in a landmark court case which will be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.
The case will seek to establish the human rights of two British women to display the cross, while the government will argue that because the Christian faith does not 'require' them to wear the cross, it does not fall under the remit of human rights.
The two women took their fight to the European Court last year after both faced disciplinary action for wearing a cross at work. One of them had lost an earlier employment tribunal decision at the Court of Appeal and was also refused permission to go to the Supreme Court.
This is the first time that the British government has been forced to state whether it backs the rights of Christians to wear the symbol at work, the Sunday Telegraph reported. It comes soon after it was criticised for plans to legalise same-sex marriages.
Ms Nadia Eweida and Mrs Shirley Chaplin claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the symbol.
Ms Eweida, 61, a check-in worker at London's Heathrow Airport, said she was suspended in 2006 for refusing to take off the cross, which her employers claimed breached British Airways' (BA) uniform code.
According to BA, items such as Sikh turbans, Muslim hijabs (headscarves) and bangles can be worn 'as it is not practical for staff to conceal them beneath their uniforms'.
The other woman, Mrs Chaplin, 56, was barred from working on hospital wards by the Royal Devon and Exeter national hospital Trust after she refused to hide the cross she wore on a necklace chain, ending 31 years of nursing.
Lawyers for the two women claim that the government is setting the bar too high. They say that Christians are given less protection than members of other religions who have been granted special status for their religious garments or symbols.
The government's position received an angry response from Christian groups who called it 'extraordinary'.
Lord George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, accused ministers and the courts of 'dictating' to Christians and said it was another example of Christianity becoming sidelined in official life.
'The reasoning is based on a wholly inappropriate judgment of matters of theology and worship about which they can claim no expertise,' he said.
Ms Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said it is extraordinary that a Conservative government should argue that the wearing of a cross is not a generally recognised practice of the Christian faith.
'In recent months the courts have refused to recognise the wearing of a cross, belief in marriage between a man and a woman, and Sundays as a day of worship, as core expressions of the Christian faith. What next? Will our courts overrule the Ten Commandments?' Ms Williams said.
The European court judges will next decide whether the cases will progress to full hearings. If they do, the cases will test how religious rights are balanced against equality laws designed to prohibit discrimination, the Sunday Telegraph said.
The Christian faith does not require the believers to wear the cross on our necks. I have never really figured out where the practice comes from although it is not entirely unbiblical... although Jesus told us to take up our cross (but not to this literal sense in this age where this holds no significant meaning) When I read this piece of news, I sort of have a mixed feeling over this. It is not as if it is a must to insist that the court states its stand on this issue. But deeper seems to be a sense of religious intolerance on the part of the employer, that borders on extreme new atheism. It also seems to be the case that Christianity is specifically targeted compared to other religions.

As Ravi Zacharias always challenges, dare those folks to do the same to the other faith. It is sad in the sense that authors such Roger Price in his Reason-Driven Life will only criticise the Christian faith while not daring to venture into other Eastern religion (and by the way, one would do good to realise that the major religions today are mostly Eastern in origin, including Christianity). It is also noble in the sense that Christianity is the only faith in the world, that I have seen, that is willing and able to stand up to academic scrutiny.

Comments

  1. Hi, Matthias :)

    Yes, while it's true that the Christian faith does not *require* us to wear the cross on our necks, our love *compels* us to do so just as my love for my wife *compels* me to act in certain ways towards her.

    However, the true issue seems to be the line between Church and State. Secularism is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems, as you have pointed out, secularism is becoming an "extreme new atheism" or, to be more precise, an "extreme new *anti-theism*".

    There are other faiths willing and able to stand up to academic scrutiny too. The Islamic faith has a long tradition of inter-religious and academic dialogue though this has, arguably, not been so in recent decades. Inter-religious and academic dialogue for Taoism and Buddhism is quite strong and firm too, but only in Continental Europe and Japan.

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