In Great Britain polemics on the discrimination of Christians in the workplace
Those who fear the crucifix
The theme of religious freedom in the U.K. continues to attract attention, specifically referring to the prohibitions (penalizing those who disregard them) by some employers about their employees wearing religious symbols, like the Crucifix. Currently two cases of discrimination against working Christian women - after having been examined in the national courts – are the subject of appeals to the European Court of Human Rights, but as reported in The Telegraph, the British Government itself seems to be in favour of the position of employers. One of those cases concerns a British Airways flight attendant, Nadia Eweida, who wore a crucifix around her neck during a flight several years ago; the other concerns a nurse, Shirley Chaplin, who risked even being fired in order to wear a small cross around her neck while caring for a patient.
The European Court of Human Rights is close to ruling on the two cases in question, meanwhile in the country controversy is mounting. According to the article, the Government, summoned by the Court, seems to think that Christians do not have the right to wear religious symbols, as it is not a requirement of their faith (unlike other religious communities, such as some Muslim communities, which require that women, in order to express the appropriate religious attitude, cover themselves entirely wearing the traditional burqa or leave only the eyes uncovered wearing the niqab). The position of the Government, according to the newspaper, is stated in a document in which it considers it legitimate for employers to sanction their employees.
The Government's position has been stirring, just as the controversy has. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Leonard Carey, accused British authorities and the courts of “dictating” to Christians and said that the position was another example of the tendency to sideline religiosity in official life. A member of the House of Lords, David Alton, observed, “And again it is Christians who are being unjustly targeted, not members of other religions”. For the Government, specifically, the question of the two Christian women would not fall under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which formally recognizes the right to openly express his or her religious faith, save in a few particular cases. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in another article from The Daily Telegraph, called it idiotic not to respect the cross as a symbol of faith in the workplace.
Many bishops and other representatives of the Anglican Communion have underlined their opposition to the attempts to discriminate against Christians, proposing a public condemnation by the General Synod. It has been observed by the Catholic Episcopacy too that some cases involving workers were examined by the British courts in a manner contrary to that established by the European Convention. In a 2011 document from the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, it was emphasized inter alia that the EU regulations provide that any further restriction to the expression of faith that is not necessary should be considered illegal and the term “necessary” should not be confused with “desirable”, leaving room for broader assessments. Other cases of discrimination on religious grounds are being considered in English courts. Among others, in the Country in force now – on the topic of workers' rights - is the Religious Discrimination provision of the employment Equality Regulations, now incorporated in the Equality Act.
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