Cross in the Public

Cross in the Public September 3, 2012

From Laura Donnelly, and at the link you can read much more:

Shirley Chaplin shrinks from the limelight. As she sits in a modest bungalow in Devon, she struggles to relax, her arms wrapped around herself protectively as she recalls her private anguish.
On Tuesday, the spotlight will be inescapable. Mrs Chaplin, a nurse for more than 30 years, left the NHS at the age of 55. She did so because she felt forced to choose between nursing – the profession she loved – and her Christian faith.
It is more than three years since she was stopped on the ward by a senior colleague and asked to remove “her jewellery” – the crucifix worn around her neck since confirmation at the age of 16.
Her refusal, amid attempts to explain the importance of the religious token to her, saw the ward sister stripped of contact with patients and put on administrative duties.
Attempts to persuade a industrial tribunal to let her return to nursing failed, with the Royal Devon and Exeter foundation trust insisting that although Mrs Chaplin had worn the silver symbol for more than three decades without complaint, the cross had now been deemed a “health and safety” risk. This week she will be one of four Christians who will go to the European Court of Human Rights to argue, in a landmark case, that they have suffered discrimination as a result of their faith. Mrs Chaplin will travel to Strasbourg with Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor sacked for saying he might not feel comfortable giving sex therapy to gay couples, Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee prevented from wearing a cross, and Lilian Ladele, disciplined by Islington Council for refusing to conduct civil partnership ceremonies for homosexual couples. There, judges will consider whether British laws are failing to protect the rights of Christians.
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  • Clearly the agency is acting like a bunch of arses. On the other hand I do wonder if we Christians don’t sometimes make too much of such things. Is the cross necklace really a vital part of the faith? Do we do damage to our witness by fighting for such periphery issues than we would if we simply submitted? If I were this woman, I think I’d get a cross tattoo at the middle of my collarbone. If her superiors are really motivated by religious antipathy, they’d object. If they are really motivated by some cockamamie notion of safety, they’d shut up. Plus, I bet no one ever commented on her necklace, but plenty would notice her tattoo. 😉

  • Jim Rogers

    It’s hard to say whether or not she is making too big a deal about a symbol or not – because a symbol is not just a symbol; it stands for something much more. When the administration tells her she must remove the object, it’s not simply because of the object itself, it is because of everything the object stands for – and that’s where it starts getting tricky. The same thing happens when Muslim women are forbidden to wear their veils. It’s not just because wearing a veil causes a problem, it’s because everything the veil stands for causes a problem.

  • Glenn

    I for one believe people of faith should stand up for their faith. Neutrality is a myth and this is a secular worldview seeking to dominate all others and push a cultural/religious identity out of the public square. The problem with this is where does the line stop? Can Jews no longer were a yarmulke? Or Sikhs a Turban? Is a simple cross around someone’s neck so offensive that it can not be tolerated?

  • gingoro

    I’d expect that they will loose because it is not objectionable to discriminate against Christians although it is objectionable to discriminate against those of other religions.

  • LMC

    I keep coming back to this post wondering to myself how I could respond and then find that I tend toward the idea that really it is not about the necklace and one can’t really make a concrete response of a WWJD type remedy. There will be those that say “take it off” God is not about the necklace, other’s might suggest it is a matter of principle, acknowledging at some level that they also know it is not about the necklace but about something else. They might say it is a challenge of God or no God. And maybe it is, maybe it is agreed that it is not about the necklace but about God or no God, or maybe we think it is about God or no God when it might be more about asking what type of God do you believe in? Maybe it is less about forcing one to claim God or no God but what type of god is behind this necklace, what “way” do you ascribe to? Would it reveal in a sense “a side one is already on”? those that fight for God or those that fight against God? but what if that misses the point for others that view God as something beyond that? But either way a response may reveal their answer as to what God appears as. I tend toward the idea that there is no real remedy of God in either response alone, that it is merely a revealing of what already is a relational divide that maintaining ones same stance doesn’t claim much in regards to the testimony of god as relational transforming work among people.

  • AndyM

    A loose necklace of any description is a potential germ vector, the same way a doctor’s necktie needs to be restrained from being able to come in contact with a patient.
    I don’t think that’s the core issue, though. Surely she could wear it out of sight.
    Th bigger picture is that of christians being asked to take their faith out of the public square, and to separate christianity from the rest of what they do. It’s almost that secular humanism or any religion that does not require anything of its adherents, is the default “faith” of the population, and any deviation gets stomped on.

  • DRT

    I think Rebecca Trotter #1 is getting to the heart of the issue here.

    In my words, the issue is not so much whether she can wear this cross, it is where the line is drawn for all types of personal expression, religious and otherwise. If they rule that no dangling jewelry is allowed, then fine, that’s it. If the issue is religious expression, then we have a basket of worms (or whatever that saying is…).

  • DRT (6) a basket of worms (or whatever that saying is…)

    Usually ‘can or worms’, but an ex-colleague always used to say ‘bag of worms’ just to make people laugh. I must say, a basket of worms sounds even better… or worse.

    But seriously, I do think the hospital authorities should be asked, ‘If a member of staff can’t wear dangling jewelry, would it be permissible to use the cross emblem in some other form? – Perhaps a badge or pin of similar size, or a fabric emblem sewn on.’

    There is certainly a sense now in the UK of what might be termed ‘minor persecution’ of Christians. And I’m not sure how to respond.

    Personally, I don’t choose to wear emblems or put an Ichthus badge on my car. But I’d hate to think that we are on a slippery slope to official bans of such things.

  • Marshall

    Jewelry can be an unnecessary contamination issue, the kind of thing you have to be obsessive about in hospital. When was the last time that chain went through an autoclave? Maybe the issue is discipline, which is also kind of important in hospital. Maybe the head nurse is a pain, I don’t know: so she puts it in her pocket for that shift and talks about it up the line later. Or she stands there and argues and gets sent to the showers.

    There are public situations with rules that everybody has to follow. It’s pretty tough to argue that Christians are discriminated against in England.

  • LMC

    It just seems like a false notion that “Christianity” wins if she fights to gain the rights to wear it – as though that is the right to practice ones Christianity. What is ironic is that the opposition seems that catalyst to practice Christianity.

    The reason I still study the theology of Christians with a major emphasis on the roots in the Hebrew text is because at the heart of it, in practice, it is not on the same plane as usual relational win/lose strife – it works for a deeper transformation that is often ignited by strife but does not live to be maintained in it.

    It is a different struggle where the very means of struggle works you, potentially, deeper into life, into God, into that space – but much of the time we “sell” it to simply engage in a less “magical” fight to win a reactionary battler instead of push the knife deeper into our own hearts…in a weird sense. It brings one into the struggle where you give up your god for God, perpetually.

  • LMC

    It probably reveals that we tend to then fight for the right to wear it rather than fight to know those we push behind a veil when we wear the meaning it has become to us. We don’t say first and foremost that we want to see things differently through what was just revealed, we tend to say “get away from me and my interpretation”. We just do. Maybe the potential for god comes to us through offending what we solidify. Maybe like becoming that cross rather than wearing it…okay enough from me….I do the same thing – the perpetual bursting on and off of the Christ within offends me thoroughly too. I am that same one fighting to wear my own stance and dooming others away. Right when I grasp it for relationships sake, to take it down, I then pull it back on – wear the idea and such as it haunts within, that the very act is against itself. Not in itself alone, but only when ignited into a beckoned response.

  • EricMichaelSay

    LMC just articulated something that has been buried in my psyche for some time. Thanks

  • LorenH

    My wonderful wife has been a critical care nurse for 25 years. Her co-workers and patients don’t know her to be a Jesus follower because of the silver cross she wears, but because of her willingness to sacrifice to serve others. When a woman almost hemoraged to death giving birth to a still born baby, she stepped forward to help deliver the news and later lovingly put that precious child in the mothers arms and spent hours with the grieving family. This was extremely difficult for her as a mother of four and grandmother of five. When her do-workers asked in amazement how she could do that, she just said, “I just handed it over to God in prayer and walked with Him.”
    A cross can be just a fashion item. Ask Madonna.

  • Ruth Anne shorter

    It is about freedom. If it just now became a hazard, I am sure she would have obliged. We can not say she is being defiant. If this means do much to her, and she has worn it for so many years, I say she has a case. I do not believe the others are different either, they should be able to be true to their faith in their vocations. Sometimes too much education results in fuzzy logic. You know the other religions do not have to lose their “whatever” they need to practice their faith. Every time you give up a freedom, you are losing ground. That is why the really vocal groups such as homosexuals who are 2-3 per cent of population are so successful. Meek is not doormats. Symbolisms are not so important to me, but if they are to her, she should be allowed to continue wearing her necklace. There are far less germs there than on the doctors or in the place she works. Nowhere does it state she could have a pin or other object for her faith, and I am sure she could not. I feel sure tattoos are not allowed by her own choice. I would not desire to mutilate my body either.