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Wednesday 5 September 2012

All Crossed Up And Going Nowhere

[Update at end of post]

There is religious news today that may surprise some: a story about wearing the cross in the workplace, and it’s not headline news in the God-fearing Maily Telegraph. Why that might be is all to do with the readers’ dwindling appetite for being told that Christianity is somehow under siege from the EU, the BBC, “elf’n’safety”, and anyone to the left of Genghis Khan.

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Only the supposed flagship of the Desmond empire, the Express, has splashed on the story, which surrounds the efforts of four Christians to persuade the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that they should have a right to wear a cross at work. The court has not given its judgment, but the why-oh-why brigade has loosed off anyway, mainly because of the UK Government’s apparent stance.

Lawyers representing the Government suggested that those not allowed to prominently wear the cross could always “consider their position”, which is none too subtle code for “resign and go somewhere that tolerates the practice”. It was also asserted that Christians could do what they liked away from work, and that the Bible does not mandate wearing of the cross.

What was not said, of course, was that there is no actual right to wear the cross at work, especially if an employer’s dress code means that such wearing is not possible. One of those Christians worked in the NHS, where any kind of jewellery or other neckwear that dangles from the neck is banned, and after a few night shifts in A&E it should be pretty obvious why.

All of that cuts no ice with the Express, which wheels out Andrea Williams of Christian Concern and even someone from “Premier Christian Radio” (you never heard of it? Neither did I). Oh, and George Carey, who seems unable to gather all the facts before concluding that Christianity is indeed under attack (Carey even believed the Mail’s cod “BBC Turns Its Back On Year Of Our Lord” story).

The Telegraph piece, reported by Bruno Waterfield, instead gives a libertarian angle by getting a quote from Tory MP David Davis (which is rather more credible than the Christian pressure groups). But Davis does not address the fact that employers can, and do, impose dress codes on their workers. The Mail uses the story as a way to kick Young Dave for saying one thing and doing another.

But the lessening of interest over time – apart from at the Express, where anything that fills the front page and yields a half-decent headline at little cost goes – suggests an uncomfortable reality for Christians: few people think they are really suffering discrimination, and fewer still think the law should be changed for their benefit, especially when Government has so many other challenges to meet.

This campaign is running out of road. Get over it, Christian groups.

[UPDATE 10 September 1145 hours: to no surprise at all, the issue has now passed before the examination of Dan, Dan the Oratory Man. Hannan has raised the spectre of "foreign judges", which is interesting for someone who claims to "love Europe". He does not understand what "mandatory scriptural requirement" means in the context of wearing a cross.

Perhaps he should read the New Testament, which is freely available in both south-east England (his constituency) and Brussels (where he works). Hannan also talks of work uniforms "that can accommodate religious insignia" but misses the point both about the BA worker, who had worn the cross under her uniform for years without problem, and the requirements of the NHS not to allow staff to wear anything that patients can grab hold of.

Instead of addressing the issues, Hannan as ever turns this into an excuse to kick the ECHR and lawyers generally. Perhaps he once applied to law school and they turned him down. Could have been a very wise decision]

1 comment:

Chris said...

Bill Hicks had it right "When Jesus comes back do you think that he will want to see a cross? No. Maybe that's why the second coming hasn't happened yet." Or words to that effect.