More cross words over a silly symbol

More cross words over a silly symbol March 12, 2012

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has annoyed Christians – including his predecessor, Lord Carey ­– by downplaying the significance of cross-wearing.

The cross, he said, had become some something “which religious people make and hang on to” as a substitute for true faith.

Nadine Eweida, one of Christians making a sang and dance over cross-wearing at work

His comments came on the day it emerged that the Government is to argue in the European Court that Christians do not have the “right” to wear a cross as a visible manifestation of faith.

He now stands accused of failing to stand up for the right of believers to wear crosses in the workplace.

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting part of the European Court claim, said the remarks were “unhelpful”.

Judges in Strasbourg are to consider a test case on religious freedom in Britain later this year. It will bring together four separate cases, including that of Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee who faced disciplinary action for wearing a cross at work.

And in this report, Lord Cary accused ministers and the courts of “dictating” to Christians and said it was another example of Christianity becoming sidelined in official life.

Documents drawn up by the Foreign Office argue that wearing a cross is not protected under the European Convention on Human Rights because it is not viewed as an essential component of Christianity.

Carey said that the Government’s reasoning:

Is based on a wholly inappropriate judgment of matters of theology and worship about which they can claim no expertise.  The irony is that when governments and courts dictate to Christians that the cross is a matter of insignificance, it becomes an even more important symbol and expression of our faith.

Back in 2010, the ex-archbish whined:

Shirley Chaplin

In recent years, there has been a wave of relentless and shameless attempts to hollow out our nation’s deep-seated roots in the Christian faith. This is despite the fact that 72 per cent of the population say they are Christian.

The Christian women bringing the case, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the symbols.

They want the European Court to rule that this breached their human right to manifest their religion.

Lawyers for the two women claim that the Government is setting the bar too high and that “manifesting” religion includes doing things that are not a “requirement of the faith”, and that they are therefore protected by human rights.

They say that Christians are given less protection than members of other religions who have been granted special status for garments or symbols such as the Sikh turban and kara bracelet, or the Muslim hijab.

Hat tip: Pete H and BarrieJohn

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  • Matt

    It’s ridiculous that they care so much, but it’s also ridiculous they were asked to stop…it’s a bloody necklace, get over it, this isn’t France.
    Also, not sure if this is deliberate, but the CAPTCHA code is “YAHW8”. I think God has something to say about this topic.

  • Buffy

    The irony is that when governments and courts dictate to Christians that the cross is a matter of insignificance, it becomes an even more important symbol and expression of our faith.
    Funny, but I always heard that following the tenets of Jesus, helping others and the like were the way Christians expressed their faith. Apparently it’s more about projecting an image than anything else.
    Meanwhile they continue to accuse gay people of “flaunting it”.

  • Ken

    I think Matt got it in one – it’s not something worth making a fuss about in either direction. What I don’t like (and this may be more the reason such a fuss is being made) is the tendency of the State to nitpick and interfere in ever more areas of personal/private life, and a huge and highly paid apparatus set up to adjudicate such trivial matters.

  • barriejohn

    One rule for everyone, please. And, ironically, sects like the Plymouth Brethren (forgive yet ANOTHER reference) actually FORBID their members from wearing crosses!

  • Harry

    The thing is, it’s a piece of jewelry. There are plenty of times when a restriction on wearing jewelry makes sense and it being a cross doesn’t make any difference. A patient who gets a nasty infection due to the difficulty of sterilising a chain doesn’t get any comfort from the knowledge that it was holding up a crucifix.

  • Alex

    I think they should be *encouraged* to wear symbols of their stupidity, so that we can see them coming.

  • jay

    If there is a rule against loose jewelry, then go ahead with this ban. But even as a hardcore atheist, I cannot see any reason that a cross should be prohibited if similar jewelry is allowed.

  • Harry

    The two women bringing the case are a nurse, prohibited from wearing loose jewelry on hygeine grounds, and an air hostess prohibited on uniform grounds. Both are restrictions on jewelry, not on religious symbols.

  • tony e

    On the subject of crosses the late, great, Bill Hicks puts it better than I could ever hope to.
    Enjoy the link.

  • Har Davids

    You see a lot of ‘celebrities’ wearing bling-versions of crosses, making them ridiculous symbols of faith, if the wearers have any worth mentioning. If it’s a safety-issue, like long hair can be, forbid it. If it isn’t, why bother caring about people wanting to show off their membership of a silly superstitious sect, with outdated beliefs? You can’t just every book by its cover, but sometimes you get a hint. If you can recognise them, you can avoid them, if you want to.

  • barriejohn

    The crux of the matter – if you will forgive the pun – is that exceptions to such regulations have been made in the past for various religious groups, so the Christians are bound to say, “This is OUR country: why can’t we wear OUR symbols/weapons/magic clothing, etc.” As soon as someone says, “That cross is not essential to the expression of your particular brand of lunacy”, you are going to get the cries of “Persecution!”.

  • Harry

    Incidentally, if jewelry is to be treated different when it has religious connotations, note that silver has religious connotations in wicca. A wiccan could plausibly argue that a suit of silver chainmail was a holy symbol.

  • Brian Jordan

    It was a convention – at least – whereby the courts didn’t rule on religious dogma. This seems not to be the case, as it has been ruled that Christians don’t “have” to wear crosses. It must also have been ruled somewhere that Muslims ans Sikhs DO “have” to wear religious clothing and symbols. Frankly I can understand the Christians’ being a bit miffed since the Muslim clothing habits, at least, are also no more than a cultural thing.

  • northern light

    “The cross, he said, had become some something “which religious people make and hang on to” as a substitute for true faith.”
    Funny how people would not wear a gas chamber, broad axe, or an electric chair around their neck but feel quite comfortable with the execution device of a cross.
    If you asked 100 people if they belived that they have been saved by grace and that Jesus is there lord and savior ….most would say no….as they are embarassed to answer yes….it is not cool.
    Ask those same people if they are Christian ….a good deal would say yes….they do no not understand the difference.
    The latter group are diests but they do not know it.
    Many people wear a cross…..but are blind to what it means.
    To most it is just a bobble……and a bit of “look at me” …I think I have faith.

  • AgentCormac

    It isn’t so much the wearing of religious symbols that winds me up we these people as their constant whinging and attention seeking.
    I’m sure most folk don’t give a flying you-know-what whether some drab, sour-faced loon like Shirley Chaplin wants the world to know that she thinks fairy stories are real. But the nauseating stench of burning martyr which emanates from the pious posturing of these ‘offended victims’ really does turn my stomach. In fact, just looking at Shirley Chaplin turns my stomach!

  • In January 2007, following a load of negative publicity, British Airways ruled that Christian employees may pin small crosses to their uniform lapels. Now, here we are in March 2012 and the ludicrous Nadia Eweida is STILL claiming to be such a victim of discrimination that the European Court of Human Rights needs to have their time wasted hearing all about it. Never mind presenting the bigger picture, yesterday’s Sunday Mail article doesn’t even make clear that it was the neck chain that was breaking dress code policy regardless of whether it had a cross or a four-leafed clover on it. The EC of HR will be rather more thorough.

  • remigius

    These women, a nurse and a BA stewardess, are kicking up a hissy fit about not being allowed to wear a crucifix, something that isn’t a requirement of their religion.
    Yet no mention is made about them having to wear mixed fibres, which is a requirement of their religion. NHS nurses uniforms are made of 65%polyester/35%cotton, and the current BA uniform, designed by Julien MacDonald and made in Portugal, is 70%wool/30%polyester.
    I don’t get it.
    And how come Matt gets 5 characters in his captcha but I only ever get 4? ‘Snot fair.

  • Helen

    Hi. The Nadia Eweida case is interesting as I dont think that British Airways had a legitimate and reasonable justification for their ‘no jewellery’ policy. If that is the case, it does seem rather strange to forbid her to show off her non-mandatory article of faith.
    I am a true believer of atheism (!) but I am not offended at the sight of a crucifix – I guess BA may have thought that some people would be.

  • Miguel

    This is about the symbol or about wearing the necklace? Because if is the symbol it’s just stupid I know people who get tattooed crosses, they’ll have to rip of their skin or what?

  • Broga

    Banning these crosses plays into the uptight, infexible and humourless characters of these people. They love it. Dreary nonentities find themselves identified as defenders of their faith. Their co religionists, I suppose, phone them with congratulations. Lord Carey, who can reliably be expected to perform as self appointed spokesman of the non thinking faction, will make a typically knee jerk smug comment.
    Let them get on with it. Priests are abusing children, thousands are being slaughtered in Syria, the repression in Iraq now seems worse than it was under Saddam, Rowan Williams is slavishly agreeing with Ratzinger that gay marriage heralds the end of civilisation, baby girls are being FGM’d, all over much of the world children are being tortured to drive out devils and with going on for 9 billion population and starving populations religions are still encouraging unrestrained breeding………….. There are, actually, more important issues than silly people wanting to advertise their gullibility by wearing a cross.

  • barriejohn

    Miguel: This is purely a question of NOT allowing Christians to claim that they are required by their faith to wear a cross, which is as it should be. They are playing to the gallery now!

  • Don

    In the case of the nurse it seems fairly open and shut. There is a reasonable health and safety policy and she should follow it. It doesn’t matter what is on the end of the chain – cross, pentagram, star of David or Darwin-fish. The chain was the issue. No dangly jewelry, simple.
    In the case of Eweida, it was a simple and esablished uniform policy which allowed wearing such items but not over the uniform or visible. Eweida was offered compromises but refused, insisting that people needed to know that Jesus loved them.
    I would be very concerned if I thought that religious freedom to self-identify was being threatened, but these cases are very poor examples.

  • Broga

    barriejohn: You got it! They are playing to the gallery.

  • Stonyground

    I am with you on not being ‘offended’ by the crucifix in that I respect anyone’s right to wear one and I am not put out by seeing it. On the other hand, what it represents is highly offensive. Not only does it depict a man being brutally tortured to death, but it also represents the idea that everyone else deserves to be tortured for ever just for having been born and that the reason for this guy’s horrible death is to get us off the hook.
    Also, although this has been said already there seem to be some who are not keeping up, these bans are about dangly jewelry and not about religious symbols. The cross bearers are trying to claim that it is their crosses that are being banned but that is a lie. The one who turned down the compromise of allowing her to wear a lapel badge demonstrated that she was going out of her way to feel persecuted. Unfortunately for her she also scuppered any chance of ever winning a court case because it makes her employer appear to be totally reasonable and makes her appear to be totally unreasonable.
    My daughter used to attend a CofE primary school and one parents’ evening I was amused to see one of her teachers wearing an ankh, an ancient Egyptian fertility symbol that looks a bit like a crucifix but isn’t one.

  • The Woggler

    I wonder how JC would feel if he came back to earth to be presented with so many reminders of that horrible time he spent nailed to a cross.

  • jonathan

    Yesterday Mark Mullins and *Lesley Pilkington from Christian Concern were fundamentalist Christians appearing on BBC The Big Question. Having watched Mark Mullins a barrister, in action, it is little wonder so many of the Christian Concern legal cases, are lost. Both representatives appeared to be one currant bun short of a fruit cake. Their lack of empathy for others oozed with a loathing only fundamental Christians – in my experience – can display. I really do feel these incidences are orchestrated for the benefit of the Christian Lawyers who profit no matter what the outcome and fuel their santimonious egos. *It appears as though, Christian Concern, are now employing their unsuccessful clients to pursue their miserable agenda.

  • barriejohn

    @jonathan: It was painful to watch! Mark Mullins is a pain in the arse, and I have no idea why the BBC indulge people like him who never have anything new to say and come out with such palpable nonsense. Watch here for five days:

  • Georgina

    Of course it has nothing to do with whether the cross means anything. This is a ‘how come the muslims get to break the rules and we don’t?’ situation. And they are right.
    As an atheist, I agree with those that stated the cross is a nasty symbol, particularly the huge catholic ones scattered around Europe, with a life size puppet nailed to it and the blood painted on. Gruesome and sick.
    However, if someone wants to wear a silver cross – with no dead bodies depicted – then why not?
    Answer: Because it upsets our Herrenvolk! In a muslim country, crosses – and any other non-islamic religious symbols – are forbidden.
    Until someone in authority is willing to tell muslims that in the UK their rules do not apply, we will continue to have this fuss.
    Nurses were happy to conform to regulation requirements (why else the nurses watch?) until suddenly there was all this fuss about head scarves and short sleeves. Now they feel mistreated and a lashing back.
    They are fighting the islamic takeover, same as us atheists, so I will support them, even when I think it is stupid.

  • Ken

    “Yet no mention is made about them having to wear mixed fibres, which is a requirement of their religion.”
    I often wonder how long it would take to get it into atheists’ noddles that Christians are not under the old testament law. The mixed fibres no longer apply, nor the food regulations (shellfish!), nor offering animal sacrifice for atonement of sins.
    There is no point criticising Christians on the basis of laws they are not expected to keep. I do think more legitimate criticism can be levelled against wearing crosses. As someone said, it represents probably the most cruel death a man can experience, so why turn it into jewelry? Personally, I dislike intensely crosses with Christ still on then.
    For most who wear just a plain cross as jewelry though, that’s probably all it is and they don’t give it any more thought. Perhaps they should.

  • barriejohn
  • barriejohn
  • DC78

    On what basis does Old Testament law no longer apply to Christians?
    Matt 5:17-18 Jesus (Sermon on the mount) – “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
    See also Mark 7:9-10, Luke 16:17
    And, I think most Christians would say that the 10 Commandments are intrinsic laws of the bible.

  • Pete H

    @ Ken:
    I often wonder how long it would take to get it into atheists’ noddles that Christians are not under the old testament law. The mixed fibres no longer apply, nor the food regulations (shellfish!), nor offering animal sacrifice for atonement of sins.
    Is this because the New Testament supplants the old? I’m no bible expert, but I think I recall reading that Jesus says in the NT that all his father’s old rules still stand, or something to that effect?
    *could be totally wrong*

  • Pete H

    @ Broga:
    Banning these crosses plays into the uptight, infexible and humourless characters of these people. They love it. Dreary nonentities find themselves identified as defenders of their faith.
    I think Jesus and Mo sumemd up this point very well:

  • DC78

    Pete, Jesus does say that the old laws still apply, despite breaking some himself. Matt 15:1-5, Jesus criticised by Pharisees for not washing his hands before eating, in line with the old laws. Jesus criticises them for not killing their children in line with the old laws.

  • lucy

    So there is no prohibition against homosexuality? nor any of the ten commandments?

  • barriejohn

    You’re all wasting your time with Ken, as he won’t be able to come up with a logical argument. It was Paul (the “Apostle to the Gentiles”) who decided that the Old Testament no longer governed the “faithful” (who up to that time had been Jews and proselytes). Wake up and smell the coffee – Chrisianity has nothing to do with Jesus and what he said and did!

  • elainek123

    I have just attached a badge on to my pearls saying ‘good without god’
    Perhaps instead of just a cross it should be red, like blood’.

  • Ken

    Regarding the validity of the OT law since you asked. Christ fulfilled the law, being the only person ever to have kept it all, and it pointed to him. He also internalised it – it’s not just a case of not committing adultery, but the lust that is the root cause of this is inside, the ‘adultery of the heart’ in lusting after a married woman, or alternatively the greed that is at the bottom of theft.
    Once the early church became mixed, with Jews and pagans who had no knowledge of the OT Mosaic law, this issue became contentious – did the ex-pagans need to keep this law or not. The church leadership came to a unanimous decision that they did not, this was not just the apostle Paul, but all of them (Acts 15). To cater for Jewish sensitivities, they added the caveat “we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood”.
    It is true that the NT does reaffirm and enhance the 10 commandments, with the exception of sabbath keeping (to me now a matter of conscience). So to the extent the OT contains moral law, it is still useful in defining good or evil. For example, you can define what ‘sexual immorality’ is from the OT, so homosexuality is still wrong, but the judicial penalties there no longer apply (so the bible doesn’t tell you to murder homosexuals – in fact both testaments tell you not to murder at all).
    The whole external religious OT ritual with holy buildings, robed priesthood, sacrifice, dietary laws etc etc has all gone, been replaced by an internal faith and a new deal if you like. This is why I think it a mistake to make a fuss about wearing crosses or suchlike – just external things.

  • Don

    It was Paul who decided that Jewish law would no longer apply, despite what Jesus had said, because those complex laws (and circumcision) were a huge bar to getting converts. The rationalisation that the law had been fulfilled was post facto. It was all about the marketing.

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  • barriejohn

    That’s what I was trying to say, Don. It’s all there in the Acts of the Apostles, when read with an open mind. Paul fell out spectacularly with the (other) apostles (he wasn’t an apostle himself, actually!), but if he hadn’t come along when he did and reinvented it to appeal to Greeks and Romans, Christianity would have fizzled out and died. L Ron Hubbard, eat your heart out.

  • AceLeon

    A gold chain with a phallus would be more appropriate.

  • remigius

    Oh dear. It looks like my ignorance has sparked quite a debate, however I have learned my lesson and I promise it won’t happen again.
    Note to self – Christians are not allowed to wear mixed fibres because Jesus Paul said so.
    Maybe that’s why Jesus was never made a saint, cos he kept getting it wrong!

  • Ken

    Mixed fibres. Hmmmnnnn – “Have you got a loight Boy? Have you got a light?”