Crosses at Work

News this morning that the Government is going to go to the ECHR and fight against the appeals under Article 9 on a number of cases.

In a highly significant move, ministers will fight a case at the European Court of Human Rights in which two British women will seek to establish their right to display the cross.

It is the first time that the Government has been forced to state whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the symbol at work.

A document seen by The Sunday Telegraph discloses that ministers 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.

The Government’s position received an angry response last night from prominent figures including Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

He accused ministers and the courts of “dictating” to Christians and said it was another example of Christianity becoming sidelined in official life.

The Government’s refusal to say that Christians have a right to display the symbol of their faith at work emerged after its plans to legalise same-sex marriages were attacked by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.

Now, before we all get hysterical, it’s worth pointing out that there are a number of cases where the right to wear a cross should be restricted. For example, in medical and surgical environments, a piece of neck jewellery can be an infection hazard. Let’s remember that in the case of Shirley Chaplin, the nurse was offered the ability to wear a brooch with a cross in it as an alternative. This seems to me to be a valid compromise.

But beyond issues of health and safety, if what is being proposed is the right for employers to ban their employees from wearing a religious symbol per se (for example, the delivery man forbidden by his firm to have a palm cross in his van, or Nadia Eweida, banned by BA from wearing a cross at the check-in counter) then this is quite frankly the most egregious assault on religious liberty in this country for 200 years.

And of course, the logical consequences are clear. The Government is arguing that since wearing a cross is not an essential part of the Christian faith, Christians should have no right to do so. However, the Qu’ran doesn’t specify what “modesty” actually entails for a muslim woman, so if a cross is not an essential of faith then neither is the hijab.

What is happening here is a direct assault by our so-called liberal society on actual liberties. To read Article 9 in such a manner as to make “manifesting religion” only mean specific actions explicitly outlined by the relevant religion is such a narrow reading of that Article. People of faith seek to manifest that faith in their entire lives, not just for two hours on a Sunday (or Friday or Saturday). Wearing a cross is such a manifestation.

Of course, there is an amazingly simply solution to this. All we need is an emergency measure in July’s General Synod to add a new Canon to the Canons of the Church of England. I propose the following wording,

B45 Of the Wearing of Crosses and other Christian Symbols

The wearing of a cross, crucifix, ichthus or other traditional Christian symbol by both clergy and laity is a practice much to be commended. It is esteemed by the Church of England as a very suitable manifestation of faith in Christ in the daily life of not only confirmed members of the Church of England but also other Christians in this land. As such all should be enthusiastically encouraged to wear such symbols and reminded that a daily witness to Christ is essential in the life of any Christian.

There you go – the state religion says that wearing a cross IS a good thing and “a very suitable manifestation of faith in Christ”. Get your Article 9 around that.

14 Comments on “Crosses at Work

  1.  I believe the picture that you include is a closeup of the very small crucifix that Shirley Chaplin wore. There is a picture of her and the “controversial” crucifix here: .

    That article mentions “Earlier, the trust had claimed the necklace could be pulled by one of the
    elderly and confused patients Mrs Chaplin was caring for. It said it had made several attempts to reach a solution, including proposing
    clip-on crucifix earrings.”

    The nurse had worn it for 30 years. They might have asked her whether there had been instance of a patient pulling on it. Given its slight make up, the worst that would happen was that it would simply break. I can understand a regulation that a necklace shouldn’t hang in such a manner that if a medical personnel was leaning over a patient, it might touch the patient leading to contamination. Looking at the picture, the only way the crucifix would have touched the patient was if she was in bed with the patient, locked in impassioned embrace.  Also, it appears to be made of gold. The anti-microbial effect of heavy metals such as silver or gold is well documented. Medical practitioners are supposed to practice “evidence based medicine”. Thirty years of experience is excellent evidence of the safety of the “controversial” crucifix. They could have very easily sampled the crucifix to see if it harboured any pathogens.

    So a better compromise would be that it should not dangle away from the body in the reasonable carrying out of medical duties in such a manner that it could touch the patient and that it should be made of either silver or gold and that it should not present a choking hazard. Perhaps, they should add that nurses wearing such religious symbols should not be allowed to make love to the patients, of if they do, they should remove the religious symbols prior to intimacy. ;^)

    • Can I be honest Bill? Everytime someone conservative makes a comment like your last sentence, we completely undermine the rest of what we’re saying because they’re just so specious.

      The issue around Mrs Chaplin was *not* about her being banned from wearing a cross. Rather, it was about wearing a different kind of cross to the one she normally wore. Yes, she had worn it for 30 years, but the NHS Trust offered her, I think, a very reasonable compromise, namely that of wearing a cross as a brooch. I simply fail to see how that was not something she could do.

      Let me give you an example – I currently work in the City for my banking client. As a Church of England Priest I guess I could turn up to work wearing a dog collar, but in practice why would I? I can manifest my faith and my title in very different ways.

      FWIW, I encourage all Christians this week to start wearing a cross or ichthus at work, as long as it’s not a health and safety issue. Let’s be proud of our saviour.

      •  Specious?

        specious  apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible: specious arguments.

        You are simply incorrect, not only about the usage of the term specious but the issue. My point is entirely correct. The crucifix worn by Mrs. Chaplin was so short that it could not have been a contamination issue. These faceless people decide that wearing of the cross was not mandated by the religion of the nurse and that it was a safety issue despite over thirty years without incident. Mockery of them is perfectly appropriate to point out their ham-fistedness.

        May I be honest, Peter+? I apologize for the bluntness, but you are foolishly naive. You think that your public attack on the Anglican Mainstream article gives you credibility with the other side. It might if they were at all interested in honest debate. If you look at the experience of the Americans, you would see that honest debate is exactly what they strive to avoid. I understand your point about the article. They were clumsily trying to make the point again, that “monogamy” or “faithfulness” in same sex unions does not mean the same thing to Christians as it does to the same-sex marriage crowd. You should have aired your grievances privately.

        Secondly, it further naivete to think that concocting a new phraseology for same sex unions “gender neutral marriage” or whatever will assuage the proponents. It is not about marriage! If you look at places where civil unions or whatever term is adopted, the next step is a push for same-sex marriages but then next to nil couples avail themselves of it…because it isn’t about marriage to repeat myself. It is about silencing critics which is precisely what has happened wherever same-sex marriages have been approved.

        • Yes, specious. It lacks merit because it’s ludicrous – no-one is asking for the right to have sex with their patients!

          The issue around Mrs Chaplin’s cross was two-fold. Firstly, there was the contamination risk, which despite the fact you say was non-existant was still of a level to cause concern. Yes, metals like gold and silver are far more effective then others at reducing contamination risk, but they are *not* 100% risk free. Secondly, there was an issue with the necklace being pulled and broken, and the insurance liabilities thereof.
          Now look at the two options for Mrs Chaplin’s possible complaint. If the real issue was that the cross had been worn for 30 years and had great sentimental value then the issue was *not* about religious discrimination but rather Mrs Chaplin’s desire to wear a particular piece of jewellery regardless of the religious signification or otherwise. Alternatively, if the issue was the right to wear a religious symbol, surely a brooch would have been effective?

          Compare this case to Nadia Eweida which was a much more robust case. There were no health and safety implications and the only real reason was to avoid “offence”. As if someone passing through a UK airport would be offended by the display of a religious symbol of the main religion of the land!

          As to your other issue, I have no illusions that the Inclusive mob will
          suddenly listen to me. I consistently attack their position and point
          out its weaknesses and self-contradictions. But if as conservatives we
          want to win this argument we have to present the best possible
          arguments, not hyperbole that can be discounted within a few minutes. A
          clear example of this is the piece of research that was quoted by Lisa
          Nolland to attack same-sex marriage. I demonstrated very clearly how it
          had no bearing on the matter and couldn’t be used to make the point Lisa
          was trying to make without other evidence alongside it. Perhaps you
          would care to tell me which part of my survey of that paper is actually

          If we are to avoid the next “push” that will quite rightly come, our
          arguments at this point need to be robust, otherwise we will just be
          ridiculed, not for the sake of Christ but for our own lack of
          intellectual rigour and academic credibility.

          • ” It lacks merit because it’s ludicrous – no-one is asking for the right to have sex with their patients!”

            It’s called sarcasm, Peter+. You are right, though. No one is asking for the right to have sex with their patients.

            “but they are *not* 100% risk free.”

            Of course not. This is a vacuous statement. Neither is any nurse walking into a room “100% risk free”, yet they have to do that occasionally.

            “Secondly, there was an issue with the necklace being pulled and broken, and the insurance liabilities thereof.”

            I assure you that insurance companies are very much worried about things that are real risks (e.g., patients falling) not on a necklace that has never had an incident in 30 years. This is a baseless lawyerism thrown up when the nurse chose to fight it.

            The crucifix was not a “piece of jewelry” but a reminder of her confirmation as opposed to clip-on earrings.

            “Perhaps you  would care to tell me which part of my survey of that paper is actually incorrect?”

            The whole thing, in that you should have contacted her privately rather that smugly dismissing her publicly. Otherwise, you are being a shill for the other side as you are when you push for “gender neutral marriages” knowing full well that they will morph into marriages in a matter of a few years and knowing that marriage is not the issue but silencing critics is. There is no shortage of evidence that civil unions or whatever term you like then becomes marriage in a few years. You simply chose to ignore this evidence.

            • Bill,

              Let me address the substance of your comment, rather than just the sarcasm sections.

              Like it or not a crucifix IS a piece of jewellery,even if at the same time it is a reminder of her confirmation.But, if it requires Mrs Chaplin to wear her crucifix constantly (as opposed to just outside working hours because of health and safety reasons) or else she would forget her confirmation, do you not think that is rather a weak argument for saying that her faith was integral to her? You need to answer the question – was the crucifix important primarily because it was a sentimental piece or primarily because it was a statement of faith? If the first, then the issue is not religious discrimination, if the second, then a cross brooch would have accomplished the same effect (and I have seen plenty of Christian nurses and doctors wear exactly that to avoid these issues).

              I am most categorically NOT pushing for gender neutral marriage, and to suggest that I am is simply not engaging with or comprehending what I have written. What I have said is two-fold – i) That what is being proposed by those wanting change is not “gay marriage” per se but rather a redefinition of marriage to “gender neutral marriage”. (ii) If all that is required of the proponents of “gay marriage” is the name, then we should simply rename civil partnerships as “same-sex marriage”, thereby maintaining the uniqueness and differences of the two institutions.

              As regards the rightness or wrongness of publicly challenging Lisa on her use and abuse of academic research, you are working on the presumption that these issues have never been addressed privately between us.

  2. The obvious problem with all this is that it puts secular courts in a position of trying to decide what is and what is not a ‘requirement’ of a particular religious faith, and I don’t see how they can possibly do that, when members of relgions often disagree among themselves (the hijab being a valid example).

    When it comes to crosses, what if a particular individual Christian had (say) made a personal vow to God at the time of her Confirmation (or some other significant moment in her faith journey) never to remove her cross, as a permanent witness to her faith, in the same way that some married people will never take off their wedding rings? Would that not then become a requirement of her faith? Or what if some Christian demonimation decided that it WAS a mandatory requirement for its members to wear a cross visibly at all times? It is totally absurd and unreasonable for secular courts, which cannot expect to get ‘inside the head’ of religious believers, to decide on such matters.

  3. Quinquagesima makes the points very well. A court cannot know what and I why I believe. The example of a wedding ring is well made.
    I wonder why we have to make a principle of what is essential by “not all Christians see it as essential therefore we don’t need to allow it.” I don’t know of any denominations that insist on the wearing/display of a cross but that’s not the point. They should be free to follow their conscience on the matter and not have other Christians like me displayed as a spurious counterexample.
    I want to see even handed treatment: I look forward to Muslims being told not to wear hijab and Sikhs being required to remove their turbans befor being permitted to work on the front desk. No, actually I don’t look forward to that at all: rather, I expect the symbols of faith to be treated with dignity.
    But in fact we have been told to expect trials and persecutions by the Saviour himself, so this is no more or less than we should expect.
    My wife points out, and I agree, that we don’t need an outward manifestation of our faith: it should be by our love one for another that all will know that we are disciples. Should we say that if others need an outward sign, this is to suggest that their faith is so weak that they need something physical to help them while we do not, for we have something far more important: the gift of eternal life that comes through Christ alone. So if they get better treatment in this life, it doesn’t really matter, for in eternity we have salvation and they do not. Or would we be looking at a charge of contempt if we ended up in court and said that?

  4. Another point on wedding rings. Years ago I worked in the NHS, and I learned that, while patients normally have to remove all jewellery when undergoing surgery, hospital staff routinely TAPE OVER wedding rings so that patients don’t have to remove them. Now of course, plenty of married people have no problem at all with removing their wedding rings, when doing the gardening or whatever, but the fact is that for many, the permanent wearing of the ring symbolises the permanence of the marriage, and as a society we respect that. Why should not the wearing of symbols of faith be treated with similar respect?

    I’m not sufficiently up on the particular circumstances of Shirley Chaplin to know whether or not this is the case, but is it not possible that THAT PARTICULAR cross had special significance to her in the same way that a particular wedding ring has significance to the wearer? You wouldn’t tell a patient that she couldn’t wear her own wedding ring in the operating theatre, but it was OK to wear a substitute one which met certain criteria.

    Of course a line has to be drawn somewhere, and we can’t just let NHS staff go around wearing any old blingy and totally impractical jewellery because they say it’s important to them for whatever religious or cultural reason. But if it had been OK for Mrs Chaplin to wear that particular cross for 30 years, how come it was suddenly not OK?

    • Prudence,

      If it was the case that it was about a particular sentimental piece of jewellery, then the fact that it was a cross was neither here nor there and there should never have been a fuss made about the religous element of that particular issue. However, if the issue was about wearing a cross per se, then why not find a really stylish brooch? It’s the fact that Chaplin couldn’t compromise on the religious expression issue (i.e. wear a brooch rather than a cross) that undermines her case of religious discrimination.
      I believe we need to be rigorous like this when engaging with these issues, because every bad claim of “discrimination” when it is no such thing undermines the valid cases.

  5. Well, it’s probably not worth getting into an argument about this, but:

    (a) Who is to say that a person’s religious expression is not connected with the wearing of a PARTICULR item of religious jewellery, which has particular significance in relation to her faith journey?

    (b) Probably more significantly, what has changed in 30 years, to make the wearing of the cross not OK now when it was OK before? Answer: Britain has become a much more secular country, which no longer displays a priori sympathy towards expressions of faith. There may be other factors, too (such as increasingly disproportionate obession with heath and safety related to increasing litigiousness), but I think it’s very hard to argue that it’s wholly unconnected with secularism.

  6. You’re too late to get an actual rule-change into Synod in July – that takes large quantities of jumping through hoops – but if anyone is serious about this, get your Diocesan Synod to pass a motion using those words for referral to General Synod. If you can get it done in the next few weeks then you might get it on the Agenda for July.

  7. While I think the original ban on Nadia Eweida’s wearing a cross was petty and stupid, it should be remembered that she was able to get BA to change their policy, and she was offered a generous level of financial compensation by them, which she rejected.  In my view, she ought to have quit while she was ahead.

    And in fairness to the government, they have no real choice but to defend the ruling that was made by the Court of Appeal, in front of the European Court of Human Rights.

    To be honest, I’m torn here.  I don’t like Christians being treated with jack-in-the-office unpleasantness, particularly compared to some other religious groups, but I’m also worried about employers being subjected to endless litigation about items of dress.

    Overall, I’m more concerned about attempts to restrict free speech on the part of Christians, such as the Harry Hammond case.

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