Nurse loses crucifix appeal
She may well look downcast.
Even the boundless barrister and arch-defender of Christian liberties Paul Diamond could not prevail against the 'anti-Christian' onslaught.
Nurse Shirley Chaplin has lost her Tribunal case against the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital, who had moved her to a desk job after she refused to remove the crucifix she had worn for 30 years.
She has argued that her necklace was an 'exceptionally important expression of her faith' and belief in Jesus Christ. In her statement to the Tribunal, she said: "To deliberately remove or hide my crucifix or to treat it disrespectfully would violate my faith." Mr Diamond argued that she was being denied the free expression of her religious beliefs.
The trust rejected her claim, saying the decision was motivated by 'Health & Safety' concerns about patients grabbing necklaces.
The fact remains, however, that never in 30 years has her cross caused injury either to her or to anyone else, and no patient has ever complained about her wearing it.
But the Tribunal ruled that the Trust had acted in a 'reasonable' manner in trying to reach a compromise, and the chairman added that the damage to her was 'slight', pointedly remarking that 'wearing a crucifix is not a requirement of the Christian faith'.
It is good that this tribunal is so theologically aware, at least in regard to Christian orthodoxy.
Mrs Chaplin's case was highlighted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Easter sermon last weekend, in which he referred to 'wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness' which has seen some Christians stopped from wearing religious symbols at work.
But Cranmer is in complete agreement with the Tribunal chairman: the wearing of a crucifix is not a requirement of the Christian faith.
But neither is the wearing of a hijab a requirement of the Muslim faith.
There are many different interpretations of what quranic 'modesty' requires.
And neither is the wearing of a kara a requirement of the Sikh faith.
There is no decalogue: there are many different interpretations of the Khalsa requirements.
But time and again Muslims and Sikhs win such cases of 'religious discrimination' in tribunals up and down the land. Their garments and symbols of religion are considered such important expressions of their religious adherence that deliberately to remove or hide them does indeed, in law, 'violate' their faith.
But Christians may not possess such a sense of violation.
Even the Trust's 'Health & Safety' regulations are disciminatory: if a patient may grab a chain and cause injury, equally may they grab a kara. If a crucifix might harbour bacterial infection, how much moreso might the folds of a hijab or turban?
When politicians wake up to the fact that the symbols of all religions are simply cultural expressions of adherence, and that no religion stipulates on tablets of stone that items must be worn prominently to signify either personal adherence or religio-cultural supremacy, then employment tribunals might bother to educate themselves on the politico-religiosity of hijabs, karas, turbans, burkhas, kirpans, kippas, jilbabs and sacred threads.
And then the Christians would not feel that it is simply their symbols which are not tolerated in this increasingly secular-except-for-foreign-gods context.
'Wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness' indeed.