Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Britain’s government will take its assault on the Christian faith to a new level when it argues before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, that Christians do not have a right to wear a crucifix openly at work.
According to Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, the case centers around two British women who “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.” Government attorneys, in turn, “will argue that because it is not a ‘requirement’ of the Christian faith, employers can ban the wearing of the cross and sack workers who insist on doing so.”
According to the Telegraph, the legal issue came to a head after the government’s attempts to legalize same-sex marriage prompted an uproar by leaders of the UK’s Catholic Church. The case hinges on how far Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights allows individuals to go in the expression of their faith. The measure states that every individual “has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” a right that supposedly 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 two Coptic Christian women in the case, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, had faced disciplinary actions from their employers after they refused to remove crucifixes from their clothing, arguing that the symbol was central to their Christian faith. In 2006 Eweida, who worked for British Airways, was ordered to remove or cover a small cross she wore around her neck. When she refused she was sent home on unpaid leave. While the airline changed its policy the next year and allowed Eweida to return to her job, it refused to pay her for the time she was suspended.
Chaplin, who worked as a nurse, was barred from serving at a hospital after she refused to obscure a cross she had worn for over 30 years on the job. In 2010 an employment tribunal to which she had taken her case decided for her employer, a trust for the government’s National Health Service (NHS), ruling that its policy was based on health and safety issues rather than religion, and emphasizing that wearing a cross was not a requirement of her faith.
In March 2010 six senior Anglican bishops, including former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, signed a letter in support of Chaplin, explaining that she had “worn the cross every day since her confirmation [40 years earlier] as a sign of her Christian faith, a faith which led to her vocation in nursing, and which has sustained her in that vital work ever since.” The religious leaders noted that the NHS trust’s uniform policy “permits exemptions for religious clothing. This has been exercised with regard to other faiths, but not with regard to the wearing of a cross around the neck.”
This article was posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 3:55 am