Thinking Anglicans

Who is at cross purposes?

Updated Wednesday

There has been a deluge of comment about the Eweida and Chaplin cases.

First, David Barrett at the Telegraph wrote that Christians have no right to wear cross at work, says Government. Well, not really first, as this whole story had been reported in the Mail on Sunday last December by Jonathan Petre in Ministers won’t back cross-ban Christians: Ex-archbishop condemns ‘illiberal’ assault on faith.

Then, John Bingham in the Telegraph wrote: Archbishop of Canterbury: wearing a cross just decoration, says Dr Rowan Williams.

And Boris Johnson wrote, also in the Telegraph that It’s a huge mistake to forbid a tiny act of Christian worship.

Confused? Well, several people will explain it for you:

Nelson Jones at the New Statesman explains Why the government is opposing the right of two workers to wear crosses at work in Cross Purposes?

Andrew Brown at Cif belief has Cross purposes? Nadia Eweida and the meaning of religious symbols.

And Nick Baines has Cross words (again).


Here is the Statement of Facts about these two cases, as submitted to the Strasbourg court.

According to this BBC report from April 2010,

The NHS trust’s uniform and dress code prohibits front-line staff from wearing any type of necklace in case patients try to grab them.

It offered Mrs Chaplin the compromise of wearing her cross pinned inside a uniform lapel or pocket, but she said being asked to hide her faith was “disrespectful”.

She said the hospital had rejected any of the compromises she had suggested, such as wearing a shorter chain.

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Martin Reynolds
10 years ago

It’s a long time since I read the papers on this so I am hoping others here are more up-to-date, but is my recollection correct that the BA staffer refused the compromise of wearing her cross as a pin?

Simon Sarmiento
10 years ago

No. That was the other case, of Shirley Chaplin, the nurse. She was offered the alternative of wearing an alternative item, but IIRC she declined this. I will try to find the time to link to some back history on this later in the day.

Craig Nelson
10 years ago

I must say I am strongly against the wearing of crosses in secular employment. If for some inexplicable reason you believe God will let you into heaven because you wear a cross then OK, if that’s what you believe. If however you are working in an airline or hospital or a factory with moving parts and you’re wearing a cross to ‘show off your religion’ this is just simply not on. (It is of course permissible to wear a cross in your own time or to wear it under your work clothes). Honestly where is this madness going to end?… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
10 years ago

I have added a couple of links in reponse to the above. It does appear that Shirley Chaplin was offered some alternatives but none were acceptable to her.

In the BA/Eweida case, BA did change its policy in 2007, as explained in the Statement of Facts.

Bill Dilworth
10 years ago

Craig, saying that wearing a small cross at work is somehow “ramming religion down other folk’s throats” seems a bit of a stretch, quite honestly. We’re not talking about something that spans the distance between collar and waist, are we? The idea that religion is something unmentionable or out of bounds in public strikes me as distinctly odd. Pigeonholing your life so strictly like that can’t be healthy. (On the other hand, I’ve been quite down about the US lately, and your comment made me briefly pleased with my country, where we have laws that protect the reasonable accommodation of… Read more »

Craig Nelson
10 years ago

I think that some of the thinking of wearing the cross is the insistence of making known your religion to others in situations where this may not be appropriate and that is why some employers limit the wearing of jewellery or statements of identity (like mine for example). Of course in many situations people can do what they want to but in others there are reasons why visibly wearing a cross is simply not appropriate. I think that even without a visible cross Christians manage to appropriately make known their religion to co-workers and service users, possibly more effectively than… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
10 years ago

Bill Dilworth: But even here in the States, hospitals have been known to (and courts have upheld) ban necklaces for certain categories of employees as safety/health hazards–whether those necklaces are crosses, stars of David, or peace signs. And companies like airlines have also been found to be within their rights to require employees in uniform to keep “personal statements”–such as religious symbols–out of sight. Surely the airline attendant in question could have worn her cross necklace UNDER her uniform? If that was not acceptable to her, it would appear her issue was not with wearing the emblem, but with displaying… Read more »

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