According to the Venerable Bede, Christianity has been in England over 1,500 years.
So it was disturbing to see a headline scream from this morning’s Daily Telegraph, "Official Government Verdict: You have no right to wear the cross."
Two workers, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, who were discriminated against by different workplaces for wearing the cross, will tell the European Court of Human Right that Article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998 allows them to wear the cross:
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.
Lawmakers don’t always think about when we have a responsibility not to exercise our rights. However, the writers of the Human Rights Act had their thinking-caps on. Article 9 continues:
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.
Part of Nadia Eweida’s case against British Airways was that it allowed Muslim staff to wear the veil while banning her from wearing a cross. This unbalanced approach is difficult to reconcile with the second part of Article 9 quoted above. The Government will have to move carefully so as not to create the impression that the rights of Muslims to express their religious identities trump the equivalent rights of Christians. Unless, that is, the Coalition intends to fight the next election on the basis that this is no longer a Christian country.
Click here to go to the Facebook group "We WILL wear our cross!" Please become a member if you oppose the government's stance on religious, political or civil rights grounds.