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Banning the cross at work is an attack on the Christian faith
Date 06/09/2012 09:27  Author webmaster  Hits 2734  Language Global
Photo: European ParliamentIf the right of employers to forbid such acts of expression as wearing a cross at work is upheld, where will it end - asks United Kingdom Independence Party leader

By Nigel Farage MEP | PSEurope

The case of four Christians who have taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has provided us with one of the most extraordinary sights: that of Counsel for the United Kingdom attacking the right of people to wear an outward assertion of their faith at work. Nadia Eweida, a British Airways worker from Twickenham in south west London, was sent home in 2006 after refusing to remove a necklace with a cross or hide it from view.

An employment tribunal ruled Eweida, a Coptic Christian originally from Egypt, had not suffered religious discrimination but the airline changed its uniform policy after the case to allow all religious symbols, including crosses. Nurse Shirley Chaplin, from Exeter, was moved to a paperwork role by the Royal Devon and Exeter National Health Service Trust, in Devon, after refusing to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix.

People in these islands have been wearing crosses to evince their faith on and off since the third century AD, when Christianity was first practised here in Roman times. Though some wear a cross as an accessory, to the vast majority of those who wear a modest crucifix either around the neck or as a lapel badge - it is no more than a small and discreet statement to the world that the wearer is a practising Christian. For those of faith and those of no faith, it is part and parcel of our British culture and as such part of the fabric of the British nation.

In reality, it is no more and no less than the exercise of the right of freedom of expression. If the right of employers to forbid such acts of expression is upheld, where will it end? Will it be in order to forbid those who wear charity wristbands from such a display? Will employees wearing lapel pins indicating membership of, say, a political party or a trades union - or their former regiment - be similarly forbidden? Yet, now wearing a crucifix is to become the object of state intolerance.

The British government's solution is also bizarre: 'If you do not like this proscription, resign and find another job.' That is a very high price to have to pay for exercising the right of freedom of expression, especially in an era when at least three million people are unemployed. Many will say that this is yet another manifestation of a deeply disturbing trend of official intolerance of the Christian religion. One is bound to wonder if the government would tell the European Court of Human Rights that it is in order for employers to forbid a Jew from wearing a yarmulke at work?

It is deplorable - the banning of anyone who wishes discreetly to wear some device, which they have chosen to say something to the world about their identity and who they are. It is bizarre that it appears to be a singular desire of the British state - whose established religion is, after all, Christianity and whose monrach is the Governor of the Church of England - to efface from public life any outward expression of faith; particularly the Christian faith.

As a party, we will campaign against this fundamentally illiberal and oppressive stance on the part of the government. British Prime Minister David Cameron meanwhile has said he is in favour of ensuring people can wear crucifixes at work. It looks like he did not mean it. As PM, he could show leadership on this issue and instruct ministers not to oppose these cases. Once again, we discover that Cameron is not a man who always delivers on his word.

Nigel Farage MEP is leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party