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British Government Says Christians Don’t Have Right To Wear Cross Or Crucifix At Work

After facing consequences for refusing to cover or remove their crosses at work, two Christian women are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. A group of ministers is set to back employer regulations banning religious regalia in the workplace, arguing that wearing crosses aren't a "requirement" of the Christian faith.

So let me get this straight, the state religion of England is the Church of England yet wearing a Cross or Crucifix to work is not allowed? While it may not be a “requirement” as hijab is seen to be by many Muslim women, how can this not be a needless infringement and violation of one’s freedom of religion?

British Government Says Christians Don’t Have Right To Wear Cross Or Crucifix At Work


Two British women are headed to court to argue for the right to wear Christian crosses at their workplaces, but a group of Christian ministers is reportedly set to back employers’ rights to ban the regalia.

At the heart of the issue is whether or not the crosses are a “requirement” of the Christian faith.

According to a document leaked to the Telegraph that allegedly contains their arguments, the ministers are set to tell the court that crosses are not required by religious doctrine, thus supporting the government’s case that employers cannot be forced to allow such symbols.

Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin were both told by their employers to cover or remove the Christian symbol hanging around their necks. When they refused, they each faced consequences.

Eweida, a British Airways employee, was placed on unpaid leave in 2006 when she refused to remove the symbol, according to CNS News. She argued that coworkers of other affiliations were allowed to showcase symbols of their faiths. Eweida took the airline before a British employment tribunal alleging religious discrimination but lost the case.

The company eventually changed its uniform policy and rehired Eweida, but did not compensate her for the suspension period.

In Chaplin’s case, the longtime nurse was reprimanded for refusing to cover up a cross around her neck, RT reports. She was subsequently assigned to desk work instead of her usual rounds.

Now, it will be up to the European Court of Human Rights to decide if wearing a cross or crucifix is a right under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Article 9, “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” states the following:

1. 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. 2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Lawyers for the women allegedly plan to argue that right to wear a cross is covered under Article 9 as a “manifestation” of religious expression, CNS News reports.

But the British Foreign Office has already prepared the following statement, which was published in the Telegraph:

In neither case is there any suggestion that the wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was a generally [recognized] form of [practicing] the Christian faith, still less one that is regarded (including by the applicants themselves) as a requirement of the faith.

The case has been criticized by Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who was unhappy officials were “meddling” in the matter.

Sentamu expressed his feelings on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the Telegraphreports.

“My view is that this is not the business of government, actually,” he said. “I think that is a matter really for people and that we should allow it.The government should not raise the bar so high that in the end they are now being unjust.”

Andrew Brown, a blogger for the Guardian, questions what exactly qualifies as a “requirement” of the faith:

Does Christianity demand that its adherents wear a cross? The courts here have decided that it doesn’t, but I’m not sure the question is well framed. You might as well ask “does Christianity demand that you go to church on Sundays?” or “does it demand pacifism?” There are just too many Christianities for such a question to make sense.

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  • Stephen G. Parker

    @ “Just Stopping By” – Thanks for the links to the articles. This seems to be a very confusing case. The point made by the linked articles, and by “voice of reason”, would SEEM to clearly show that the two women have no legitimate case; they were not being refused permission to visibly display a ‘cross’, just not allowed to wear the chain which might be grabbed by a patient (at least in the situation of the hospital worker. The airline did change its policy.)

    However, that being the case, it’s very strange that in the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the case centers on whether or not employers may be required to allow employees to VISIBLY display a cross or crucifix. The Government is arguing that the law does not recognize the VISIBLE display as a “right” because it is not a requirement of the Christian religion. The defense is arguing that the law DOES recognize this as a “right” – freedom to manifest one’s religion does not just mean the freedom to do what one’s religion absolutely requires.

    If the hullabaloo is not actually about the visible display of the crucifix, but only about the manner in which it is visibly displayed (necklace versus clip on earring), why doesn’t the Government itself point this out instead of making an argument that there is no right recognized in the law to do something which the person’s religion does not require (VISIBLY display the cross/crucifix)?

    If the hospital has clearly said that they don’t object to the cross/crucifix itself, but only to the necklace on which the cross is worn, it’s very strange that the employee and a number of church leaders remain convinced that the case DOES concern the cross itself – and the Government confirms that by making a case that the law doesn’t recognize a “right” to visibly wear a crucifix. Again, why doesn’t the Government just make the case that the problem is not the visible display of the cross itself, but the necklace on which it is worn – rather than making it into a ‘Constitutional’ argument about the “right” to visibly display the crucifix? There’s something very strange about all of this.

  • Vince

    Don’t blame this on the non-Christians. I would bet that those who develop these types of rules and laws are practicing — or at least one point in their lives called themselves — Christians. We are our own worst enemies. We worry about offending other religions, when they are not generally bothered by the displaying of crosses, the celebration of Christmas and so forth.

  • UK Muslim

    I am all for Christians being allowed to wear their crosses, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

    We are not living in extreme Communist Albania in the modern West, are we?

    The agenda-driven stirrers often try & use this as an Islam-bashing tool.

  • Just Stopping By

    @the_voice_of_reason and @Stephen G. Parker: With regard to Shirley Chaplin, I believe that the alternative is not as either of you has suggested, which sounds like pinning the cross to the outside of the nurse’s clothing.

    “The NHS trust’s uniform and dress code prohibits front-line staff from wearing any type of necklace in case patients try to grab them. It offered Mrs Chaplin the compromise of wearing her cross pinned inside a uniform lapel or pocket, but she said being asked to hide her faith was ‘disrespectful’.”

    Also: “It [the employer] said it had made several attempts to reach a solution, including proposing clip-on crucifix earrings. … She told the hearing she was ‘personally convicted’ to wear the emblem, given to her as a confirmation gift in 1971.”

    If the latter quote is correct, then it seems as if the hospital was not against visible religious symbols, but simply against necklaces.

  • Stephen G. Parker

    @ “the_voice_of_reason” – What you write may be true; but in re-reading the loonwatch article and the “Telegraph” article, there is nothing said about the restriction being on the MANNER in which the symbol is displayed (on a chain around the neck as opposed to wearing a pin on one’s clothing). It is all about the “visible display” of the cross.

    In fact, according to both articles, the cases of both the Government and the defense hinge on whether or not Christians have a “right” (within the European Convention on Human Rights) to “visibly display” the symbol of the cross (not whether or not Christians have a right to visibly display the symbol in one manner as opposed to another).

    The statements you quoted were not in the articles I read; but if your statement that it’s only about wearing the chain around the neck, not the symbols displayed on that chain, then it seems to me the case could be quickly settled – or even simply thrown out of court. The case of the defense would be groundless if what you say is true, and the Government would not have to argue about whether the ‘visible display’ of the cross is an undeniable right.

    So to me there seems to be something ‘fishy’ about the claim that it’s not about the cross symbol, but the chain on which the symbol is worn.

  • CriticalDragon1177


    I really don’t see why they’re doing this. I don’t see what the harm is, in letting them wear crucifixes.

  • TheBig-T

    As the user the_voice_of_reason said:
    “A report on the case states “The hospital trust said the bitter dispute is not about the religious significance of the crucifix – given as a confirmation gift – but say it breached health and safety rules after a risk assessment showed it could be pulled by a patient in her care.”

    and i agree, if it causes health and safety issues, maybe its best not to wear them (that includes all necklaces not only crosses since they can be a chocking hazard) that being said, the issue becomes a problem if they are trying to ban it from wearing it in public

  • Aspie and Atheist

    To European Muslims and Non-Muslims:

    How about “live and let live.” Guess what, Muslims in the west are not trying to impose their views on anyone, they are just trying to live their lives according to their principles. But Europeans don’t want to see them, they don’t want any visibility of anything other than themselves. Europeans need to get over their superiority complex and face the horrors of their racism and colonial past, and realize that they’re no better than anybody else. Then maybe they could appreciate diversity instead of fearing it.

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