Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Split Decision for Christian Rights in Britain

I have previously written on the subject of two Christian women in the United Kingdom who were forbidden to display small cross or crucifix pendants while at work.  In separate cases, both Nadia Eweida of British Airways and Shirley Chaplin of the National Health Service Trust were told that a public display of these symbols of their Christian faith was not in keeping with policy: in the case of Mrs Eweida because of a uniform policy, and for Mrs Chaplin because of a safety concern.  After they disputed the directives, both were first moved to positions with no interaction with the public, and both were subsequently fired.

Both examples became legal cases and eventually made it to the British Court of Appeals, where they lost, with a denial of an opportunity to appeal to their Supreme Court.  As a result, they instead took the cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Chaplin, Eweida, McFarlane

The cases reported out today but with split results.  Fox News reports in the case of Mrs Eweida that she "has won a landmark religious discrimination case" and was awarded €32,000 in restitution.  She is understandably delighted at the result, and goes on to describe the discrimination to which she was subjected:
I have colleagues that are Muslims who wear a hijab; I have colleagues who are Muslims who do not wish to wear a hijab.  So, they have a freedom of choice.  Either they wear it or they don't wear it.  Everybody has their own right and faith and makeup to be able to express their faith in their way and manner.  So, why should I be discriminated against on par with other colleagues?
But the Fox News piece neglects to mention the case of Mrs Chaplin, wherein the Strasbourg court maintained that the hospital where she had worked could "refuse permission to wear a cross on 'health and safety' grounds".

The courts of the British government fought both cases on the grounds that wearing a cross is not a "requirement" of the Christian faith.  The Strasbourg court found otherwise:
The judges accepted for the first time that wearing a cross was an important expression of Mrs Eweida’s faith which deserved protection under the European Convention on Human Rights – even though it is not an explicit tenet of Christianity. 
Rightly so.  Left unsaid in the recent articles is the fact that Mrs Eweida is a Coptic Christian, from the ancient (arguably the first) Christian community that resides in Egypt, and which has been subjected to enormous persecution from the increasing tide of the Salafist movement, one of the driving forces behind the Muslim Brotherhood that has placed Muhammad Mursi in power as the country’s president.  Mrs Eweida understands taking a stand in defense of her beliefs.

But as for Mrs Chaplin, it is unclear what safety violation she imposed by wearing the small crucifix around her neck.  She had volunteered to wear it pinned to her blouse, but that option was rejected without explanation.  There is also no explanation of how a hijab, a far larger and bulkier adornment, would not be a safety violation in the same definition.   (In my earlier article, I wrote about how the hijab is also not a religious requirement of the Muslim faith, and how it is, in fact, a rather recent affectation.)  Mrs Chaplin explains:
I feel that Christians are very marginalised in the workplace; we don't get a fair hearing.  Other faiths are allowed to manifest their beliefs through clothing or jewellery in their workplace; Christians are not. 
(It is unsure to what extent this ruling may affect the French ban on hijabs and other headcoverings, and the consideration of such a ban in other European countries.  In contrast, Obama condemned such bans in his apology speech at Cairo University at the start of his presidency.)

Also included in the judgments were Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele, both counselors who have been fired for professing to their superiors that they have a conflict with counseling same-sex couples; in other words, they did not want to be placed into situations where their actions amounted to condoning homosexuality.  Mr McFarlane in particular was dismissed for "gross misconduct for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation".

We see in these cases another excellent example of the hypocrisy of the Left: they will denounce those who maintain a traditional, grounded approach to an issue and condemn them for 'intolerance', yet when they have achieved a position of power (through whatever means), they will tolerate no opposition whatsoever, to the point that they will publicly hound their opponents and ensure that they are fired.  Toleration goes only one way with them.  This even extends to attempts to compel religious organizations to take in atheists.

Part of the opposition in their minds comes from an intolerance of Christianity in particular (I still wait for them to condemn Salafist terror and the Islamic Supremacists) but it extends further.  Mr McFarlane comments: 
[This case] is not just about me, it's not about the Christian faith, it's about folks of faith or no faith who consider that they have a conscientious view about something, their rights should be looked at and a better balance achieved. [emphasis added] 
Mike Judge, spokesman for the Christian Institute which supported Miss Ladele: 
What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold.  If the government steamrollers ahead with its plans to redefine marriage, then hundreds of thousands of people could be thrown out of their jobs unless they agree to endorse gay marriage.

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