Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has given judgment on four cases where it was alleged that employers had violated the appellants’ human rights under articles 9 and 14 of the Convention, in other words, the protection of religious freedom and prohibition of religious discrimination. Three of the cases were dismissed. The sole success was that of Nadia Eweida.
That was the BA worker who had initially been told she could not wear a necklace with a small cross openly at work, although the company revised its dress code to accommodate such symbols six years ago. And the ruling on wearing the cross is not universal: Shirley Chaplin lost her case because of health and safety considerations. So how do practicing Christians view this business?
Here, well known Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries has been watching events keenly. So keenly, it seems, that some of the factual background seems to have passed her by, especially when she talks of “someone ... sacked from their job because they wore a cross”. Nadia Eweida is still employed by BA, and Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, took early retirement last year.
Perhaps that’s an isolated incident? Apparently not: Ms Dorries had already asserted “At 9am a ruling will be made – judges will decide whether or not the wearing of a cross is a necessary requirement of Christian faith”. That would be an interesting concept, given that it’s not within the remit of the ECHR to tell what is a necessary requirement of any faith. It’s not a religious body.
Nor, I have to tell the Member for Mid Bedfordshire, is there anything in Article 9 of the Convention (see it HERE [.pdf]) that suggests anything of the sort. And, as the man said, there’s more: “Remember the van driver being taken to court for having a cross in his van on the dashboard?” asks Ms Dorries. Well, yes I do, because Zelo Street looked at the case of Colin Atkinson in some detail.
Such was the attention to detail that I know one thing about the case, and that is that he was not taken to court. How could he have been? The Atkinson case was all about the decision of Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) wanting to keep their company vans tidy – which meant outlawing any attachment of symbols to the dashboard (had he been wearing the cross, there would have been no problem).
Colin Atkinson and WDH was a workplace dispute, nothing to do with wearing a cross, and could not be remotely classed as an infringement of his right to freedom of religion. And that is Nadine Dorries’ three strikes and out: for someone who is a Member of Parliament to have such a casual attitude to facts while being ever ready to call out others for the same thing is not an ideal situation.
Something that George Young will no doubt be considering carefully.