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Mr Cameron said that if necessary, he will legislate to make it clear that people can wear religious symbols at work. So: when’s he going to do it?

Three out of four claimants who say their religious rights have been infringed have been rejected by Strasbourg. What about them, Mr Cameron?

By on Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Shirley Chaplin poses with her crucifix necklace (Photo: PA)

Shirley Chaplin poses with her crucifix necklace (Photo: PA)

I see that Mr Cameron has tweeted that he is “delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld”. The genial Eric Pickles said that he too is delighted. They were referring, of course, to the judgement in which, by a majority of five to two, judges of the European Court of Human Rights have supported the claim of Nadia Eweida, a BA check-in clerk, who was sent home in November 2006 for refusing to remove a small silver crucifix, that this was a violation of her rights.

But what about the three Christians whose claims were rejected by the court? Cameron and Pickles have said nothing about them: nor, in most reports that I heard, did the BBC (later they mentioned them in passing). The court ruled against Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was told to remove a crucifix necklace at work. The judges said Chaplin’s employer banned necklaces for health and safety grounds, so asking her to remove the symbol was not excessive: though how this argument could be seriously upheld, when after a nursing career of 30 years not a single incident has occurred remotely involving her crucifix in either health or safety, beats me.

The judges also rejected the claims of Lillian Ladele, a local authority registrar who said her Christian faith prevented her from overseeing same-sex civil partnerships, and marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane, who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples. In both cases, the court argued that employers had been entitled to strike a balance between claimants’ rights to manifest their religious beliefs and the rights of others not to suffer discrimination. Freedom of religion, they piously intoned, is “an essential part of the identity of believers and one of the foundations of pluralistic, democratic societies … However, where an individual’s religious observance impinges on the rights of others, some restrictions can be made.”

But exactly how does refusing to conduct a same-sex civil partnership ceremony, or refusing to give sex therapy to gay couples, impinge on anyone’s rights? There are plenty of registrars prepared to carry out this procedure: and the couples involved would have been quite unaware even of Lilian Ladele’s existence, let alone of her views on civil partnerships. As for giving “sex therapy” to gay couples, how on earth would a heterosexual person know how to do that? And would a gay couple having difficulties in that department really want the advice of someone so totally unqualified to give it? Would a heterosexual couple want the advice of a gay sex therapist? So why did Relate fire Gary McFarlane in the first place?

And why exactly aren’t David Cameron and Eric Pickles supporting them? Even in the case of Nadia Eweida, are we not entitled to doubt their entire sincerity? If Cameron, in particular, is so keen on religious liberty, whatever happened to his promise to legislate to protect them — yet another promise which has not been and probably will not be kept. And more to the point, why were government lawyers sent to Strasbourg to argue against all four claimants, including Nadia Eweida? This is what James Eadie QC, Cameron’s Government’s expensive barrister, told the court (on his behalf): that the refusal to allow an NHS nurse and a British Airways worker to visibly wear a crucifix at work “did not prevent either of them practising religion in private”, which would be protected by human rights law. He argued that a Christian facing problems at work with religious expression needed to consider their position and that they were not discriminated against if they still have the choice of leaving their job and finding new employment (my italics).

“There are,” he went on, “two aspects to this part of the argument. Firstly, resigning and moving to another job and, second, there is clear and consistent jurisprudence that the person who asserts religious rights may on occasion have to take account of their position.”

Isn’t that what Cameron really thinks? Believe what you like: but if your employers don’t like you making it clear that you have beliefs you expect to be respected, forget it? Shirley Chaplin was moved away from nursing to a clerical role by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust in Devon after refusing to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix and then fired completely, after 30 years of nursing. “It is insulting, humiliating and degrading,” she said when her case was first taken to the European court: she then said, Mr Cameron please note, “My Christian faith isn’t something that you put on and then take off to go to work”.

But isn’t that exactly what Cameron really thinks she ought to do, whatever he tweets? David Davis said at the time that “the idea that British citizens are not free to express their faith in the workplace is an extraordinary and oppressive interpretation of the law”. Cameron claimed to agree. “What we will do,” Cameron told the House of Commons in July, “is that if it turns out that the law has the intention of banning the display of religious symbols in the workplace, as has come out in this case” (and as has now been confirmed, in the case of Shirley Chaplin), “then we will change the law and make clear that people can wear religious symbols at work”. Well, according to the law as it has emerged, that isn’t clear at all now.

So, Mr Cameron: when are you going to do what you said you would do? When are you going to legislate, to make it “clear”?

Me, I’m not holding my breath.

  • JabbaPapa

    LMAO — denouncing a so-called “argument from authority” on the basis of an argument from authority without even pausing to take breath nor realise the inherent paradox …

    As you should be aware, but apparently are not, an argument from personal experience refers to empirical reality — NOT “authority”.

    The sheer inter-disciplinary breadth of your methodological amateurism is astounding …

  • JabbaPapa

    I doubt that he has any relevant professional experience in these matters.

    I certainly don’t, but then I’m not pretending to be any kind of expert in these things, am I …

  • Tridentinus

     You are a troll and therefore your comments are not worth a reply.

  • karlf

    I’m pointing out that it is neither logic or reason that would lead us to believe in devils and demons, especially considering what we know of evolved animal behaviours.
    Of course bad people influence our behaviour. What are you on about??

  • JabbaPapa

    Because evil is an actual reality, and demons and devils can influence people’s behaviour.

    Evolution is irrelevant to this fact.

    You continue in your failure to distinguish between material and immaterial contingency, despite this distinction having been pointed out to you on multiple occasions.

  • karlf

    What led you to conclude that demons really exist?

  • drj81

    Generally elderly, celibate, virgin males to not give advice in that department.

  • karlf

    How can evolution be irrelevant to human behaviour when it has created our main human behavioural traits? Or do you think it is just a coincidence that other animals behave with affection, jealousy, envy, lust, greed, selfishness etc.?

  • Tridentinus

    First of all we can dismiss the legitimacy of the ECHR as its ‘judges’ have virtually no or very few legal qualifications.
    In the UK legislation which has been controversial, e.g. the abortion act has never compelled doctors to carry out the abortion of a baby. This was included in the Act permitting abortions to allow those whose religion forbade them to carry out abortions would not be obliged to carry out abortions. This prevails up until today. However, it does not apply to ancilliary staff.
    Catholic nurses or other NHS staff do not have the same opt-out except to lose their jobs.

  • drj81

    “generally elderly, celibate , virgin males” do not give sex therapy.

  • majorcalamity

    There is so much wrong with this analysis that it is difficult to know where to start. Eric Pickles DID comment on all four cases when interviewed on radio 4. He agreed with each of the judgements, pointing out that where rights are in competition, decisions have to be made as to which are most important. No new legislation is needed, for no rights have actually been disregarded. They have just been considered in conjunction with others and decisions reached. The nurse lost her case not on religious grounds, but because her employer introduced new health and safety guidelines and it was held that they had the right to do so. In fact they offered many compromises, but all were refused. She wanted nothing less than her own point of view to be accepted. The counsellor and registrar both owed loyalty to their employer and, quite rightly, were expected to do their jobs. The judgement says it is not for the courts, or you or I, to decide what those jobs involve. That is the right of the employer. So again this is not anything at all to do with the infringement of religious rights. It is a decision that the employer also has rights and that these are superior. If anyone decides, for whatever reason, that they cannot perform the tasks that their employer requires of them then, provided they are legal and being safely performed by others, they have no choice other than to resign. That is their responsibility and not their employers.

    I think you ought to be turning the spotlight not on Mr Cameron but on the shady group behind these cases  The actual appellants are really just unfortunate stooges who are being used to push a dubious agenda. I would like to know who they are and who is really financing them, because I think it stinks.

  • Tridentinus

     Oh, dear, trolling again.

  • TreenonPoet

     Since you regard the ECHR to be incompetent in legal matters, would you care to point out where, in the relevant judgement they have got a single point of law wrong?

  • Parasum

    “I’m pointing out that it is neither logic or reason that would lead us to believe in devils and demons…”

    ## That is partly why the Church teaches that their existence cannot be known by reason, but only by faith.

    Understood on its own terms, belief that such beings exist is coherent with other parts of the Catholic universe view. Demons are as real as bad men, or as ourselves when we do what is bad.  Belief that such beings are real is not a cause for embarrassment, but a part of Biblical Christianity. That comparable beings are mentioned in many cultures, does not make them mere fictions: & comparative religion neither weakens nor strengthens belief in their existence, because ideas from these sources are not the theological motive for believing such beings exist.

    Nor is there any scientific proof that demons exist. There is no reason to expect there should be, for demons are not material beings – they are fallen angelic spirits. Humans are material as to the body, but have spiritual souls. And this spiritual element in man is what makes it possible for demons to influence us. Since every human being has a guardian angel, this is not as fearsome as it would be otherwise.  

    The important thing is to give an account of things which lets people judge for themselves, if they are so persuaded, that this belief makes sense within Christianity. That is *not* the same as saying “I accept this belief as a true account of reality”: faith =/////= understanding.

    This belief makes no sense if one is not a theist of any kind, so it would be rather worrying if an atheist believed there were demons – that would be superstition: which is something unworthy of a human being. Demons, because they are by nature angelic beings,& are thus created beings, make full sense only as parts of the *ensemble* of created things that takes its meaning from Christ.

  • Parasum

    Evolution is relevant to human behaviour – not to the “behaviour” of demons. We are partly animal – demons are not animal in any way, for they are spirits.

  • Parasum

    That sounds like a very fair compromise. It sounds as though the precise form of the  material object was more important than whether it was cross-shaped. The more one hears of her case, the less defencible it seems to be. Aren’t the values for which the Cross stands more important than a representation of the visible object ?  

  • TreenonPoet

     One cannot ignore something without first registering its presence. Having registered it, one can pay attention to it for any length of time before deciding to ignore it. If you are pointing out that one cannot thereafter completely ignore it because one must repeatedly bring it to mind in order to actively do nothing about it, I think you are right.

    What I wanted to convey was that when I earlier used the term ‘health and safety’, I had already read William Oddie’s argument about health and safety (”…though how this argument could be seriously upheld, when after a nursing career of 30 years not a single incident has occurred remotely involving her crucifix in either health or safety, beats me”), but had considered it so poor that I did not think it was worth addressing.

    But it seems from some of the comments in this thread that it does not matter how poor the argument is as long as it superficially appears to indicate that Nurse Chaplin’s employers were a bunch of incompetents, but that Chaplin was a health and safety expert entitled, by virtue of being a Christian, to break the rules. Don’t forget that she was not being prevented from manifesting her faith, yet that was her claim!

  • CullenD

    Wouldn’t a pen only touch a patient if the patient were signing a form…. not the job of nurses, or something that happens a lot on a ward. Technically, as long as the nurse is disinfecting her hands between patients, it’s the same as wedding bands. 

    Anyway that’s a distraction, this was about discrimination, not effectivesness of rules. It doesn’t matter if the rules were stupid, as long as they were applied evenly to all. 

    That was clearly the case here, she was offered other ways to wear her cross, and there was no evidence that the rules were broken for other religions. All of which showed fair and even implementation of the rules.

  • Parasum

    And if there is control in a hospital, why is that a bad thing ? If there were more control, there might not be all these “super-bugs” the Press talks about. It doesn’t seem right to risk spreading more germs than is absolutely unavoidable, especially if the means of spreading them is not essential to one’s job. That is the difference between a pen, and a cross.

    In all this case, nothing seems to have been said about the class of people who got to hospital to get the better of ill-health – the patients. STM the rights of the nurses, though not to be ignored, are not as important as those of the people they are employed to help.

  • CullenD

    Here we agree 100%. I say bring back Matrons! Not just for the “Uh-er” jokes. Having a person who is in charge of every detail of a ward/area and has the authority to control it, still seems like a good idea to me. 

  • Parasum

     That’s very informative – TY. D’you have a link to the judgement or to further analysis of it ?

  • Parasum

     Only from a Catholic POV. St. Thomas knew better than to imagine Arabs would be impressed by ideas based on the Catholic Faith – which is why he did not appeal to it in his *Summa Contra Gentiles*;  the CF has no force as proof for those who do not believe it.  If the CC’s position depends on faith, it will convince only Catholics.

    So the OP’s objection looks pretty solid.

  • CullenD

    The press didn’t report it, or maybe certain press with a political agenda didn’t, but the court made clear that safety issues should be addressed my medical not legal experts. 

    That was not the issue brought up by the christian nurse. She claimed discrimination. Found, again, to be false in this case. 

  • Parasum

    “Philosophical naivety” ? Hardly. Clear-headed rationality, would be nearer the mark. It is circular reasoning to say that we can tell the Church speaks with Divine authority, on the ground that the Church tells us it speaks with Divine authority. Such flawed illogic should not convince anyone. Catholics should be capable of better.

    The OP would be reasoning naively *if* the matter under discussion depended on Divine Faith alone – but it does not; it is accessible to reason, which is competent to judge whether a given exercise of reason be flawed in its reasoning, or not.

  • CullenD

    Ok, I used the term the church when I should have written Magisterium. Or Vatican. Or which every term would have been better. 

    The thing is you still don’t answer my original comment, which I explained in more detail later. But my main point was ”

    “Do I really need to point out how absurd that point is in a catholic publication.”

    It was the first sentence of my comment. Telling me to “Grow up” is just re-phrasing your old “You don’t understand comment. As usual you just deflect to your meaning of words while ignoring the context in which they are used.

    Most of us people are simple folk, we tend to say what we mean, but not be exactly precise, we assume the listener has the ability to learn context.   

  • CullenD

    Please tell me who that particular group of elderly, celibate, virgin males don’t try to give advice to!

  • CullenD

    Can I add how stupid is the question ” Why were government lawyers sent to Strasbourg to argue against all four claimants,”

    If you need an answer you are more ill-informed than the person who asked. 

  • CullenD

    here’s one I hope not a link, buy paste and go should work.

  • Paul

    Karlf,  you have never had a spiritual experience.  If you had, you would be seeking to be released from the horrible oppression of demons rather than raising silly arguments about their existence.

  • CullenD

    Sorry, I have to add, in hindsight. Infections weren’t understood in those days, thus you saying it didn’t didn’t happen in the last 30 years doesn’t work. 

  • teigitur

    We only stopped wearing ties and white coats etc 4 years ago. Infections were very well understood well before that.Oh and how could I forget stethoscopes? Never sent to the autoclave between each patient! Anyway I think we have done this to death.Many of my heathen colleagues are of the opinion that its about control too, so not just Christian paranoia.    Btw I quite like horse meat!! lol. Good old Ballybay!

  • teigitur

    Oh I think we can agree that far from being “simple” you are quite complicated, extraordinary really.

  • Kevin

    Can you explain the “creative” power of evolution?

  • JabbaPapa

    I can see that you have understood my comment about that member’s naïveté not at all.

    What a surprise …

    Simply rehashing the products of that naïveté does not impress.

    Trite caricatures of Catholicism and Catholics are trite caricatures ; NOT accurate representations of the Church.

    Do you even understand the inherent self-contradiction of such a statement as “You simply can’t define the “truth” as your own and the RC Church’s opinion” ? Who is this person to declare who can and who cannot define “truth” ??? Does she even understand the actual meaning of the verb “to define” ? Is she not implicitly claiming that her own personal opinions on the nature of “truth” are superior to those that she’s denouncing, hence doing exactly what her sentence is claiming to denounce in the first place ?

    Otherwise : quid est veritas ?

    Either the truth is constant and real, in which case ANY philosophical authority has the right to define its philosophical doctrines as purveying such truth, in which case that objection of hers is inherently unacceptable …

    Or the truth is something relative and locally determined, in which case such authorities would have exactly the same rights, albeit for completely opposite reasons, but her objection would remain just as unacceptable.

    Meeny’s comment denies BOTH of these possibilities — and it basically boils down to “the Catholic Church is wrong, and so there !!!” ; given that it is provided with no justification, no explanation, no evidence, no philosophical justification, indeed — nothing of any philosophical value whatsoever.

    It’s just some juvenile screeching against the teachings of our Church.

    My phrase “philosophical naïvety” is IMO accurately representative of the views that she (sadly) continues to express in these pages — and it is a fact that I find these naïve views to be quite depressing in their monotony and triteness.

  • JabbaPapa

    As already mentioned, you continue in your failure to distinguish between material and immaterial contingency, despite this distinction having been pointed out to you on multiple occasions.

    Including upon this last occasion.

    Do you understand that souls and spiritual beings like demons and devils cannot, by very definition, be subjected to such material contingencies as those governing, for example, DNA ?

    Can you demonstrate that consciousness is caused by evolution ?

    Can you please demonstrate that individuals belonging to the species Megaphragma Caribea behave with “affection, jealousy, envy, lust, greed, empathy, selfishness”.

    Can you please demonstrate ANY way whatsoever whereby knowledge of animal behaviour is in ANY way contradictory of Christian teaching, particularly given that questions relative to the differences and similarities between human and animal behaviour have been an integral part of general philosophy and religious teachings for many thousands of years ?

    Can you also please stop pretending that your questions have never been addressed — because this lie of yours is extremely tiresome.

  • JabbaPapa

    Meeting somebody who was possessed by one.

    Please don’t ask me to “prove” this, I’m well aware of the fact that I can’t.

    That is just ONE of several spiritual experiences in my life, and certainly NOT one of the most powerfully convincing, that are present to my mind as realities against which your doubts and your trite bookish arguments simply fade into insignificance.

  • JabbaPapa

    (and I’ll ignore your stupid argument about health and safety)

    Self-contradiction’R’us …

    Case in point.

  • TuAutem

    Let’s apply some logic to your argument, shall we: Are you saying that all human behaviour is pre-determined by natural selection?  You are incapable of free will, or making arbitrary decisions?  You were destined to make that post on this website, word-for-word, because of your genetics?  If not, you cannot claim that natural selection excludes the possibility of other influences on our behaviour.

    Also, please specify what part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church you are referring to, if you want to discuss specific aspects of the Church’s teaching (it’s searchable online).  I can assure you that the phrase “devils and demons influence our behaviour” is not in there, meaning that the actual content of Church doctrine has escaped you.

  • karlf

    No, I’m saying that human nature is rooted in evolved behavioural
    traits. Animals “sin” just like we do.

    Here are a couple of quotes from the Catechism (specific aspects of
    the Church’s teaching):

    414 “Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels
    who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice
    against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt
    against God”

    1673 “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the
    liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority
    which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological
    illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of
    medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is
    important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the
    Evil One, and not an illness”

  • Peter

    In some countries of the world, Christians who express their faith lose their lives.

    In other countries, Christians who express their faith lose their freedom.

    In this country, Christians who express their faith lose their jobs.

    Christianity is a suffering religion and in its suffering finds strength.  As Tertullian says: “The blood of Christians is seed”.

    The mild persecution we face in Europe is only a shadow of the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world who, despite their great suffering, cling doggedly to their faith.

  • Acleron

    We know that complex surfaces are more likely to harbour bacteria than smooth surfaces. Just as we know that complex three dimensional objects such as dirt are more likely to harbour bacteria. It’s not speculation to assume that all such should be avoided, just prudence.

  • Acleron

    We already know that complex surfaces harbour bacteria more than smooth surfaces. It is excessive to ask for an experiment to prove that every trivial piece of jewellery is a potential cause.

  • Breff

    I suspect that the reason the BBC and MSM gave little if any coverage to the the failed cases was that the judgements reflect badly on the gay lobby – makes them appear a trifle unreasonable. In contrast by concentrating on the crucifix judgement they conveyed the message that Christians had won and therefore have nothing further to complain about.

  • CullenD

    Last word to me then… You won… stethoscopes.. why didn’t I think of them?

    Anyway, do you think we just found Shergar?

  • OldMeena

    If what you say were so, then anything could be defined as “the truth” (as history’s rich collection of various absurd religious claims and teachings demonstrates only too well).

    As Archimedes didn’t quite say: “There is no royal road to a knowledge of the truth”.

  • JabbaPapa

    In other countries, Christians who express their faith lose their freedom

    In this country, Christians who express their faith lose their jobs

    Meanwhile the usual trolls rub their bellies in self-satisfied contentment for their evil bullying and persecuting ways.

  • Acleron

    As you do whenever you type, you confuse facts and opinion. Pointing to somebody’s opinion and trying to bolster it with aspersions of authority is just an argument from authority. Stating facts, facts that have been substantiated by experiment is called, amazing for you perhaps, stating facts.

    I well realise, that for someone whose whole ethos is just an argument from authority it is difficult to understand the real world. But, now and then, please try, it will make you look less offensive and ignorant. Well, less ignorant, anyway.

  • JabbaPapa

    Sorry — YOU are the one who has grossly abused our most basic concept of truth in and of itself.

  • Acleron

    Yes, your lack of knowledge in wide areas is almost unsurpassed. But your ignorance of my experience is absolute.

  • karlf

    No, I do not understand what “souls” and spiritual beings can or cannot be subjected to. Please inform me. Are God’s spiritual powers/magic impotent in defeating these spiritual beings?

    “Can you demonstrate that consciousness is caused by evolution ?” As humans and other apes have been shown to possess consciousness, I’d consider these facts alone to demonstrate consciousness is caused by evolution.

    “Can you please demonstrate ANY way whatsoever whereby knowledge of animal behaviour is in ANY way contradictory of Christian teaching” The Church teaches that envy, for example, is a “sin”, whereas (thanks to science) we now understand it as an evolved behavioural trait, and not the influence of devils and demons.
    Until the 19th century the Church was completely ignorant of the fact that human behavioural traits were the product of evolution, and to this day continues to use ancient Middle Eastern folklore to explain negative aspects of our nature.