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The Cross is ‘a requirement of the Christian faith’

Perhaps it is time we followed the example of Bishop Nazir Ali and Cardinal O’Brien

By on Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Bishop Ali has defended our right to wear the Cross  AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

Bishop Ali has defended our right to wear the Cross AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

In a Telegraph report of 28 April, David Barrett relates that Michael Nazir Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, has written to the European Court of Human Rights in support of Christians who are claiming that they have suffered discrimination at work because they have been banned from wearing a cross. In his submission, Bishop Nazir Ali writes: “We have reached a stage where Christians in the United Kingdom risk their employment if they wear a cross. However, the United Kingdom courts have permitted the wearing of a Sikh bangle, the Islamic headscarf and even a corncrow haircut.”

The Government plans to argue at the same Court that employers have the right to ban the wearing of the cross because it is not a requirement of the Christian faith. Archbishop Rowan Williams, in what seems an embarrassing own goal, appeared to support (or at least not protest against) the Government’s position, by stating at a church service in Rome in March that the wearing of a cross had become something “which religious people make or hang on to” as a substitute for true faith. I disagree with him. “Religious people”, those who publicly profess their Christian faith, wear a cross as a sign of this faith (and who is he to judge their motives anyway?) It is non-religious people – often celebrities – who affect a cross simply as decoration or jewellery, but the Archbishop didn’t say this.

He should have said what was left to retired Anglican Bishop Nazir Ali to say: Christian employees should have the right to express their faith by wearing a cross. The Bishop went on to state, “Any policy that regards the cross as just an item of jewellery is deeply disturbing… It is disrespectful and insulting to practising Christians…The cross is ubiquitous in Christian devotion from the earliest times… The cross is the most easily recognisable Christian symbol in architecture, church furnishing and the dress of the clergy.” He added: “I am aware that many Christians wear the cross and would be distressed to be required to remove it.”

Bishop Nazir Ali echoes what Cardinal Keith O’Brien said in his Easter Sunday homily when he urged Christians to “wear proudly a symbol of the cross of Christ on their garments each and every day of their lives”, adding, “I know many of you do wear such a cross of Christ, not in any ostentatious way, not in a way that might harm you at your work or recreation, but a simple indication that you value the role of Jesus Christ in the history of the world, that you are trying to love by Christ’s standards in your own daily life.”

I was once given a pair of black earrings in the shape of crosses. I have never worn them. They couldn’t be seen as anything but items of jewellery; very different from the little silver Celtic cross, given to me by my mother, which I have worn round my neck for years. Perhaps it is time for parish priests to follow the example of Bishop Nazir Ali and Cardinal O’Brien, and preach about the importance of wearing a cross as a symbol of faith – and not as a style accessory.

The Church doesn’t make a “rule” about wearing a cross, rightly giving people the liberty to choose. But reverence for the cross and what it symbolises concerning the price of our redemption is “a requirement of the Christian faith”. If Christian employees choose to wear one, the Government should recognise this as an expression of deeply held beliefs – beliefs that have shaped the history, laws and culture of this country.

  • Maccabeus2

    One of the main problems is that Christianity, its history and culture and all it stands for, is now so little known or understood among the elites – including the judiciary – that they no longer understand what used to be regarded as simple, everyday facts concerning the faith, its symbols, rituals and practices. When it comes to the judiciary, however, something else is clearly afoot – a barely concealed hostility to all things Christian and an aggressive, proactive desire to eliminate our faith from the public square. This hostile animus – some might call it intellectual bigotry – when combined with levels of ignorance in all things Christian that are nothing less than astonishing, is generating the kind of outrageous anti-Christian decisions we are now seeing. As for Rowan Williams, our bumptious Jamesian 21st century version of ‘the wisest fool in Christendom’, rarely has a man achieved such a sublimely oxymoronic combination of pompous pseudo-erudition and rank stupidity.

  • TreenonPoet

    Minister for Women and Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, says:

    There is nothing in domestic law that denies people the right to wear visibly a religious symbol such as a cross or crucifix while at work. Employers need to have proportionate and legitimate reasons—for instance in order to comply with health and safety requirements—if they want to restrict their employees from openly wearing any religious item. We believe that domestic law already strikes the right balance between the rights of employees to manifest their faith and that of employers to place legitimate and appropriate restrictions on that freedom. There are no current plans to change the law in this respect.

    That seems reasonable to me. Why are so many high profile Christians deliberately distorting the truth and, more dangerously, trying to discredit the judiciary for ruling in the employers’ favour when the employee had behaved unreasonably?

  • theroadmaster

    The wearing of the cross by Christians, when examined at a profound level, is an external re-affirmation of their gratitude to and love for the Lord of us all, who sacrificed Himself on such an instrument of torture, to bring us the Eternal hope of Salvation.   He overcame the dark symbolism of the cross and turned it into a means to overcome the life-denying realities of sin and death, by His triumphant Resurrection on the third day.  But the cross for many unfortunately has no spiritual resonance, and is viewed by them as a relic from a bygone age, when Christianity suffused the social fabric of Western countries.  Catholics must use the symbol of the cross to educate people they encounter, regarding  the very rich theological, salvific meaning that it has for humanity.

  • Honeybadger

    I am so totally with you on all those points, theroadmaster.

  • Honeybadger

    Intellectual bigotry – that is spot on!

  • Oconnord

    You beat me to it, I was going to post the same quote. It’s another article trying to continue the myth of a “war on christians”. It simply ignores the fact that the BA worker would have been banned from wearing a Star of David or an atheistic “Scarlet A”. In fact she could have worn a six inch gold cross, studded with diamonds, if it was under her uniform.

    The NHS nurse’s case is even more ludicrous, any hanging piece of jewellery was banned as it increased the chances of cross infection, (no pun meant). The same would have been true if she insisted on wearing a shirt and loose hanging tie or scarf. 

  • theroadmaster

    A discreetly worn cross is hardly a threat to “health and safety”, except that it seems to attract the opposition of such doctrinaire atheists as yourself.

  • JByrne24

    Very true Oconnord (& TreenonPoet) – and yes, you’re quite correct that the red Atheist curly “A” is also not allowed on nurse/doctor clothing.
    There is no war on Catholics/Christians, and the senior Catholic of England and Wales, The Archbishop of Westminster, has said so.

    Some high profile people are deliberately distorting this matter for political purposes, such as some of the hacks who write for Telegraph Newspapers.
    Others, as illustrated by the first few postings here, simply regurgitate what they have read.
    Yet others again use the Church to focus the attention of the Faithful on yet another trivial matter (as they do on any subject pertaining to sex) while ignoring the important issues and problems of our time.

    Ms Phillips quotes herself when choosing a heading for her article, as if to reinforce the validity of her piece. She later goes on to say: “The Church doesn’t make a “rule” about wearing a cross”, yet  denies this fact when claiming (wrongly) that  the cross  “is a requirement of the Christian faith”.

    But of course mentioning, to these Catholic Fundamentalist Extremists, the names of their hate figures such as that of our own Catholic Archbishop, Vincent  Nichols and the Minister for Women and Equalities, Lynne Featherstone only adds fuel to their fires. May they “burn” themselves out soon.

  • aearon43

    It is sad that it takes someone named Nazir Ali to defend British culture.

  • theroadmaster

    The simple fact, is that if the cross if worn unobtrusively, it should give offence to no-one, even those who deliberately go out of their way to find it, as pertaining to any display or act of a Religious nature, now matter how trivial or inoffensive.

  • aearon43

    If it really is for “health and safety reasons” , then why does it specifically “restrict their employees from openly wearing any **religious** item” ?  If a cross attached to a necklace is some kind of hazard (and, really, isn’t it hard to imagine that it would be outside of the operating table or emergency room?), then I would think the rule would ban not “religious items” but rather all jewelry. Does it?

  • TreenonPoet

     In the case of Shirley Chaplin against Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital, a rule that forbade the wearing of dangling jewellery existed for safety reasons and did not just apply to crosses. The rule did not discriminate against Christians because it applied to everyone in that job. What makes you think you know better than the NHS Trust?

  • TreenonPoet

     (Please see my reply to theroadmaster a few moments ago.) The quote from Lynne Featherstone was a written response to a question from Karl McCartney “To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities if she will bring forward legislative proposals to protect workers who choose to wear a visible cross or crucifix“, so the reference to ‘any religious item’ was appropriate.

  • Benedict Carter

    Attacks on the Cross are a direct assault on Christianity’s very identity and meaning. 

    As I have noted before, Bishop Fulton Sheen said in the 1960′s, “The essence of the demonic lies in the hatred of the Cross”. 

    These attacks will get much, much worse. 

  • JabbaPapa

    Another fine piece of uncatholic prose from JB.

    Perhaps you should get one of these atheistic religious symbols for yourself ?

    hacks who write for Telegraph Newspapers … simply regurgitate what they have read … sex … the important issues and problems of our time … claiming (wrongly) that the cross  “is a requirement of the Christian faith” … Catholic Fundamentalist Extremists … hate … May they “burn” themselves out soon

    My !! What love !! What charity !! What hope !!

    Not a word though about God, not one about our Lord Jesus Christ, and not a word of support for any other Christians than Vince Nichols — no, just some attacks against your usual (Catholic) targets, your clearly motivated lack of solidarity with and support for the victims of this attack upon our Faith, and yet another motivated expression of support for atheism and atheistic ideas.

    Familiarity with your tactics and your thinking does nothing to lessen their shockingly irreligious nature.

  • Maccabeus2

    Oh well, if the Archbishop of Westminster says there is no war on Christians then of course it must be true… for never in the field of divine Faith has so little been done, by so many bishops, for so few believers, as that done by the said Archbishop for the cause of Christianity in England.

  • TreenonPoet

     The idea that there is a war on Christians (and note the severity of the word ‘war’) is a fabrication of certain so-called Christian institutions who are notorious for their fabrications. I wonder where their money comes from because they seem to have plenty to waste on groundless court cases. One wonders if the purpose is to loose the cases in order to try to justify the accusation that a war is being waged against them.

    What is this “cause of Christianity” for which you think archbishops should lie? To obtain even more special privileges for Christians (at the expense of all non-Christians)? Is that what Christianity is about?

  • JByrne24

    aearon wrote: “If it really is for “health and safety reasons” , then why does it specifically ‘restrict their employees from openly wearing any **religious** item’ ?”

    This matter is not restricted to religious items.
    It includes the Atheist red “A”, the Star of David and anything else of a similar kind.

  • JByrne24

    My “usual (Catholic) targets”, as you put it, do not include our own Catholic Archbishop, many Catholic Bishops and other good Catholics. But they would include Fundamentalist Extremists who rage against their OWN CATHOLIC senior clergy.

    Your totally out-of-context regurgitation of some of my words is shameful.
    I did not, for example, say “hate” – I said “hate figures”….etc. .

    And no, I do not need a scarlet curly “A”, as I am not an Atheist.

    What you might think my “tactics” might be, I cannot imagine.

  • JByrne24

    It is nothing to do with “give[giving] offence” or “deliberately go[ing] out of their way”. It is rather for good reasons.

    Please see this explained in a number of other postings.

  • Maccabeus2

    Chistianity is and always has been spiritual warfare in the name of truth and justice to the honour and glory of God embodied in the Faith as it has been handed down to us across the generations and aided by God’s grace without which we can do nothing. As to your refutation of  a war being currently waged against Christianity I can only say either you are in bad faith in denying its self-evident reality, or you are in sincere denial of the same, for whatever personal reasons you may have, which are of course none of my business.

  • JabbaPapa

    I personally have never raged against any senior clergy, except one or two who have demonstrably been shown to have deliberately and willfully covered up the sexual abuse of children, and one shameful case of a “bishop” having engaged in such abuses himself.

    I am also not a “Fundamentalist Extremist”.

    Then again, nor do I rebel against the most senior clergy by calling for the ordination of women, nor do I campaign for permissive rules concerning abortion, nor do I support banning the cross, nor do I support the heresy of Protestantism, nor do I preach sexual disorder as if it were Catholic teaching, nor do I compare sex to soap or cheese, nor teach that fetuses are not human beings, nor claim that war, poverty, discrimination in all its forms, starvation, fanaticism in all its forms, the behaviour of banks and some businesses, unemployment, lack of health provision etc are somehow “religious” matters !!!

    The purpose of the Church is the worship of God.

    It is not a political party, nor can politics change this purpose in the slightest.

  • JByrne24

    But these matters DO concern the Church very much.
    The last Pope was helpfully involved in riding Europe of the scourge of Communism – although this of course did not include direct and overt political action.
    The attempt to murder him was almost certainly Communist inspired.

    The CES is doing its best at present to influence MPs, and thereby a Parliamentary vote on Gay Marriage, while absurdly claiming to have no political agenda.
    The Church has, in the past, also campaigned to put pressure on MPs in respect of abortion. 

    The Church does not reside in a political and secular vacuum.

    As that Chicago Archbishop (or Cardinal?) was reported as saying as he took refuge in the Vatican, I paraphrase: you can have too much spirituality and can’t run the Church (or Vatican) on Hail Marys.

  • JabbaPapa

    Sorry, I disagree — though I can and do appreciate the clear improvement in tone.

    Marxism (as Nazism did) promotes atheism to the detriment of Faith — as such, Marxism is a religious matter, because it directly attacks God.

    Similarly, policies that directly contradict Church teaching, that is to say her **religious** teaching, are to be resisted for religious reasons.

    Finally, politicians who seek to subvert and use the Church for political purposes are to be resisted also — whether it’s the Borgias or the Presidents of the USA.

    Beyond that, render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

    (I’ll concede your point concerning the political life of any Bishop of importance — *that* is a tough position to be in)

  • theroadmaster

    A simple cross hanging around one’s neck under a shirt or blouse hardly constitutes a threat to the health of safety of the wearer or his/her work colleagues.  The case you cited seems to have been extravagantly interpreted to include simple symbols of Faith.  Political-Correctness gone mad.

  • theroadmaster

    It very much seems like you are going out of your way to find offence in any word, act or symbol in the public square which reveals support for a pro-Faith position.  I have read your other postings and they do not convince me to the contrary.

  • TreenonPoet

    Chistianity is and always has been spiritual warfare in the name of truth and justice…

    If Christianity is represented by the Christian Institute (to take one example of many discredited so-called Christian organisations), then this example (one of many that I could refer you to) demonstrates that it does not operate in the name of truth and justice. To quote an extract from what Baroness Massey said in the House of Lords:

    I am aware that there has been a campaign to discredit myself and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, which has made dangerous assumptions about our intentions. I have a letter here from the Christian Institute, circulated to many noble Lords, which states:

    “At Report stage there will be votes on amendments to require schools to teach sex education”.

    This is untrue. A further letter states:

    “Amendment 80 would ratchet up the pressure on schools to teach children about matters which they are simply too young to deal with”.

    Again, that is untrue. As I said earlier, a duty of inspection is to ensure that teaching and materials are suitable for the age and stage of the child. My amendment protects children.

    I am aware also that some colleagues will have been the subject of a public letter-writing campaign fuelled by the letter that I have just quoted. One lady wrote to someone saying:

    “An Education Bill is being forced through Parliament which would result in compulsory sex education for school children from the age of five years”.

    Where is this Bill that is being forced through Parliament? Where is the intention? My amendment is about well-being and protecting children. The public have been fed dangerously misleading information, which implies criticism of myself and, to some degree, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. We were not informed that such information was to be sent and it is only by the kindness and concern of other Members of this House that we have sight of it. Incidents such as this letter-writing campaign happen when misinformation is unleashed, and people make what they will of it. It is particularly worrying when a charity is involved.

    Never in the time that it has been my honour to serve in your Lordships’ House have I known such a sinister and vicious campaign, which has sought to misinform others. Noble Lords will receive hundreds, maybe thousands of letters, taking up their time and energy, and I find this most regrettable. I also deeply regret the fact that it is ironic that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and myself have been two of the people in this House most concerned for the welfare of children. My own work has included child internet safety and child trafficking. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has been consistently involved in work on the rights of the child.

    Baroness Walmsley added:

    I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, and the noble Lord, Lord Layard, for graciously allowing me to speak next, for obvious reasons. Before I get on to the substance of this amendment, I would like to say a few words about the events that have led up to our debate today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, the Christian Institute recently sent out a letter in which it claimed that I would be laying an amendment to make PSHE compulsory. As your Lordships see from the Marshalled List, this is not true. It also claimed, in a subsequent letter, that my fictional amendment, and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, which we are now debating, would force schools to teach five year-olds about sex. That is also not true. There have been wicked insinuations that we would want to do something that would harm children and their innocence. The noble Baroness and I have spent our whole parliamentary lives, much of what went before and a lot of what goes on outside, working to promote the well-being of children, and to suggest that we would harm them is outrageous and very un-Christian.

    Not satisfied with this, they have got a whole lot of people to send e-mails and to make phone calls to a number of Peers, including myself, asking us not to vote for teaching five year-olds about sex. Well, since we had no intention of doing so anyway-which a polite inquiry to either of us would have discovered-this is both time-wasting and cruel. Some of the people who made contact were very upset. So we have a so-called Christian organisation telling lies and being both uncharitable and cruel.

    If you reply that the Christian Institute does not represent your brand of Christianity, I would like to know who does. Could it be, for example, one that does not know the meanings of the words ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ when it comes to dealing with cases of priestly sexual abuse of children?

  • TreenonPoet

    The compromise of wearing the cross pinned inside a uniform lapel or pocket was put to Shirley Chaplin, but she refused. Her employers (who are obligated to respond to safety hazards) were trying to accommodate her as best they could, so what was her agendum?

  • JabbaPapa

    erm, pedantry time : “agendum” is not a real word.

  • TreenonPoet

     Forsooth? Some dictionaries are saying that agendum is obsolete! I read that ‘datum’ (in the sense of the singular form of ‘data’) seems to be going that way too. Gadzooks! I must be getting old.

  • JabbaPapa

    It’s not that it’s obsolete, you just do not use agenda in anything other than the plural — because it designates a plurality of things to do. The singular of agenda is task, appointment, meeting, interview, et cetera.

    Not the same situation at all with datum and data.

  • Jae

    The British government is running amuck, like a deranged man in search of an innocent victim. Is this how low their logic is? Truly pathetic that they are bothered by someone wearing a cross but not muslim, jewish or secular symbols, just tells you of its diabolical in nature.

  • Leomadigan

    A compelling argument, beautifully stated.

  • TreenonPoet

     It is people like you who are being worked up into a frenzy by the sort of lies being put out by organisations such as Christian Institute and Christian Concern and being printed in the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, even after the facts have been pointed out to them.

    I am not saying that the Government do not lie – it is clear that they do if they think they can get away with it – but why do some religious institutions have no qualms about lying, even while preaching against it? To stir up resentment in this way is immoral. Their claim to represent the moral position is just another lie.

  • Ruari McCallion

    I wasn’t aware that Christianity was uniquely British. What do you mean?

  • Togram11

    I always where the cross as a symbol of my faith in Jesus and i would fight it tooth and nail if my employer banned it.