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by Nigel Farage
If 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
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.