UK Workers Fight Gov't Ban on Religious Symbols

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ENGLAND -- Christians in the United Kingdom are angry over a new law forbidding employees from wearing crosses at work.

Now they're taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Faith under Fire

Each day nurse Shirley Chaplin wears a cross around her neck as a symbolic reminder of her Christian faith.

"When I was confirmed I put my crucifix on and I've never taken it off," she said.  "To me it's symbolic like a wedding band.  I made the vows to be a Christian when I was 16-17, and I've never taken it off from that day."

But if the British government has its way, she'll lose her right to wear that cross at work.

Later this year, government officials will argue before the European Court of Human Rights that employers can ban employees from the wearing the cross and fire those who insist on doing so.   

Andrea Minichiello Williams is founder and CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, the firm representing Chaplin in this case.

She hopes that by taking this case to the European Court of Human Rights it forces governments to acknowledge the right of Christians to freely express their beliefs in the workplace.

"We very much hope that the government will see common sense," Williams said. "By making the cross an issue by saying that it's not a manifestation of the Christian faith by making that kind of statement they make the cross an issue."

Williams is deeply concerned at the implications of the government's stand on the issue for the future of religious liberty in the U.K. and Europe:

"I can hardly bear to think of what the implications are.  As the director of the Christian Legal Centre I do not contemplate losing at this point.  It's something that we have to win," he said.

Workers Express Outrage

The British government was not available to speak to CBN News about their stand on this matter, but in a statement said: "The equality act makes very clear that people have the right to express their views in a legitimate way, as long as they do not discriminate against a particular group or individual."

A group of British office workers expressed outrage over the new law.

"I'm appalled, absolutely appalled.  I can't believe it," one person said.

"To be honest I'm quite shocked to do this. You know we call ourselves a Christian nation," another British office worker said.

"I think it's ridiculous," another worker added. "If it was a Muslim wear a hijab they would back them and say that it was okay for them to do it."

"I would think the government would have more things to do than worry about a cross because, after all, it's just a piece of jewelry," yet another worker said.

Chaplin believes whatever the outcome of her case Christians need to continue to make a stand for their beliefs.

"We need to stand and make other Christians have a voice so that we are heard so that we have the equality, which we all deserve," she said. 

As this case is decided in the European Court of Human Rights later this year, Christians are praying that victory for Chaplin will pave the way for others like her to be able to proudly wear their cross to work without fear of reprisals.

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Peter Wooding

Peter Wooding

CBN News Correspondent

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