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The War Against Religion…in Britain

As David Cameron arrives in the US for a celebration of the special relationship, it’s worth noting that Britain is set to argue against its own citizens’ right to wear crosses in the European Court of Human Rights. CNN reports:

Christian activists in Britain are furious at the arguments their government will use against them when Europe’s highest court considers whether employees have the right to wear crosses that show over their uniforms.

Britain will argue that the two Christian women at the center of the case had the option of quitting their jobs and working elsewhere, so they are not covered by European human rights law, according to legal papers obtained by CNN…

The government will also say that wearing a cross is not a requirement of Christianity, so wearing one in public is not protected by the law.

What could be more logical than that? If you want to wear that baptismal cross your grandmother gave you, quit your job and go find another one.

Last time Via Meadia looked, the Queen still bore the title Henry VIII got from the Pope: Defender of the Faith. We wonder how she feels about her government’s decision to abet the suppression of normal and healthy religious life. We’re prepared to bet that she is not amused.


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  • ptet

    As an atheist I find the “no cross” rules rather silly… It’s kind of like avoiding the word “Christmas”. Hey, it’s called Christmas. It dates back to ancient pagan festivals. What’s the problem?

    If crosses are to be allowed, then I’m sure you’ll fight for the right for people to wear any reasonable symbol of a similar size. Flying spaghetti monster broach, here I come…

    There’s maybe a simple solution to all this tho. Why don’t we just allow people to discriminate on religious grounds (don’t serve gays, don’t perform abortions, etc.), and then we can allow people to discriminate against religions views they don’t like. You’re a muslim or a Christian who has a problem with Gay people? Fine! Don’t shop here.

    That should work fine…

  • Kris

    “The War Against Religion…in Britain”

    I thought it had been won a long time ago. Or rather, that one side had forfeited.

    And since the big US brouhaha hasn’t made an appearance here: I demand that my employer let me wear a big cross while providing me with abortifacients!

  • Wifman

    Another attempt to appease muslim votership. After all, as is amply evidenced by store personnel here in London, wearing a veil to work seems to be perfectly fine.

    Crush the faith that made us great and endorse the one that keeps people poor and miserable wherever it has majority.

  • James Blakely

    ptet – Speaking as someone who is highly committed to a historically orthodox understanding of Jesus Christ and christianity, I think your suggestion is terrific. Government should not prevent private citizens who want to discriminate against me in peaceful ways because of my faith to do so.

    A boss who hates Christianity (I’ve had some of those) should be able to fire me for it. Likewise, a restaurateur who thinks my faith is unreasonable should be free not to serve me. That’s called the freedom to make a peaceful choice.

    For my part, I would never discriminate against any person simply because of their private sexual practices. Gays, lesbians, philanderers, polygamists, polyamorists, and others are welcome in my restaurant. They are more than welcome to attend my church.

    But if “not discriminating” means that I must affirm as “good” and holy sexual conduct that my faith (and most other faiths) teaches is immoral, with God’s help that will never happen. That’s defining “discrimination” to encompass “believing and practicing historical Christianity.”

  • Scohn

    War against religion? What side’s the Archbishop of Canterbury on then?

  • Paul Graham

    You are guilty of repeating CNN’s exaggerated misrepresentation of the case that the UK govt is presenting.

    The govt is trying to make a practical and sustainable judgement about where to draw the line between individual rights and employer rights. They judge, not unreasonably, that the line should be based upon the historic and accepted requirements of established religions.

    The UK govt case is that employers have the right to determine the uniform that their employees wear, unless the uniform in question represents an abuse of fundamental human rights.

    What consitutes a ‘human right’ is the question at the heart of the case. The ‘right’ that sikhs enjoy to wear turbans at work (and even in place of a helmet when riding a motorcycle) is, for instance, well established in British law because this is a requirement of their religion.

    However there is no more a requirement to wear a cross if you are christian than to wear a peace sign if are a pacifist or a rainbow button if you are homosexual.

    The UK govt argument is therefore that religions should be treated EQUALLY when considering the right of their adherents to wear religious symbols, according to the historic and established requirements of that religion. It is an entirely liberal argument in basis.

  • Cunctator

    With a PM as shallow, unprincipled and slippery as Cameron, and with a social radical (Nick Clegg) as deputy PM, none of this is surprising. But US citizens should see this as a warning because the same sort of liberal hatred for one’s own values and civilisation is alive and well in America, and appears to be especially strong in the White House and the current administration.

    At a practical level, these sorts of actions are truly meaningless and potentially dangerous. Appeasing Islam by banning Christian symbols will not dampen inter-ethnic and growing sectarian tensions. It will only feed them, for Islam (believing it is now winning) will simply up its demands. At some point there will be push back and that is when the potential for real violence starts to grow.

    WRT the UK, it would be nice to see the Queen, who is completely untouchable by Slippery Cameron, take a strong stand on this issue. A few words publicly spoken or, better yet, wearing a very visible cross at an official function (after all, the state crown is topped by a jewelled cross), might help shut down this idiocy. But even if she did that, her unimpressive heir would likely chirp up with his own inane comments about multiculturalism and his desire to be the Defender of the Faiths.

  • ptet

    James Blakely @ 4

    Thanks for your interesting take on this.

    The supposed problem with allowing religious symbols is that it’s then difficult to argue against other symbols – rainbow flags, swastikas, whatever – but that’s surely dealt with by a reasonableness test. It’s not a question so much of freedom of religion, but freedom of expression, maybe.

    I think the UK government’s position is that it’s for businesses to decide – so painting this as “anti-religious” is a bit of a stretch. (Paul Graham makes the same point @ 6).

    As for allowing discriminatory practices… If you are using public money (e.g. adoption agencies), then surely the public (thru our politicians) has the right to put reasonable restrictions on how that money is used. If you don’t want to place kids for adoption with gay parents, fine, but why should you expect public money for that, when your objection is religious? Similarly, if you don’t want to be involved in providing lawful abortions, don’t work for a company that provides them, and why should you get public money for refusing to provide legal services?

    “my faith (and most other faiths) teaches [homosexuality] is immoral…

    Your faith historically was also used to justify bans on inter-racial marriages and the persecution of other faiths. It also taught for centuries that the Sun revolves around the Earth, and that mental illness was caused by demons.

    Cunctator @ 7

    “the same sort of liberal hatred for one’s own values and civilisation is alive and well in America…”

    Because I think gay people should have equal rights, inter-racial couple should be allowed to marry, and science should be taught in science classes, I have “hatred for” my “values and civilisation”? Lol.

  • Kris

    Paul@6: But who is to decide what is a recognized religion, and what its precepts actually are? See, for example, this case. (Short version: London Jewish school decides not to accept a student it determines is not Jewish. UK Supreme Court decides that its decision, based on Jewish law, is racist.)

  • WigWag

    So David Cameron’s government doesn’t want to allow Christian women to wear religiously pertinent jewelry when they work in government offices; how shocking this must be to Professor Mead.

    After all, it was only a few short months ago (actually it was October 7, 2011) that Professor Mead was assuring us that David Cameron was a “man with a plan.”

    Mead compared Cameron favorably with Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

    The silly post can be read in its entirety here,

    I wonder whether Prime Minister Churchill or Prime Minister Thatcher (or even Prime Minister Blair) would have brought a case in the European Court for Human Rights seeking to forbid women from wearing crosses while working in government offices.

    Prime Minister Cameron; a man with a plan indeed!


    Speaking as an agnostic I can still see the great advantage that we, as members of western civilization inherited from the Judeo- Christian Tradition. Freedom, the right to be individual , justice for all etc. For centuries these basic tenants evolved in tandem with the perpetual dialogue between church and state, i.e. dualism. The King owns your body , God owns your soul,
    also evolving , the philosophies that helped us come to grips with difficult ???s ” The Enlightenment” and so on. Until, Hegel . He said there was no soul . Only Monism.
    In my view some where in the complexity of philosophical debate the baby was thrown out with the bath water.
    Hegelian philosophy lead directly to Totalitarianism.
    Hegel piqued the interest of other philosophers like Marks who influenced Communism ,
    and later Heckel who influenced the Facsist movement.
    The result was two totalitarian systems where there were no individual rights only the state was important. In other words the state was the last arbiter.
    In other words the state was GOD. The last arbiter of individual rights and every thing else including Science.

  • J R Yankovic

    @ 1 and 4:
    I’ve seldom – if ever, now that I think of it – read or heard it expressed better. My sentiments exactly. Thank you.

    Some random, hopefully not unrelated thoughts:

    Re the Union and Expansion of Greater Europe Project as it’s been unfolding over the past 20 years, I’ve often wondered if it wasn’t implicitly POST-Western at least in principle from the start (as in: “Not only is everything we Westerners have done imperially and colonially over the past 5 centuries ABYSMALLY wrong, it’s infinitely wronger, more heinous and more inexcusable than any comparable ‘imperial’ projects as undertaken by non-Western peoples – and esp. by those God-fearing, woefully-more-sinned-against-than-sinning Muslims.”) But if these have been “Europe’s” presuppositions right along, I don’t see why they shouldn’t translate into explicitly anti-Western bias in practice.

    Meanwhile it’s hard to refute the argument that orthdox trinitarian, incarnational, resurrectional Christianity is in fact an inextricable – perhaps even a pivotal – part of our common Western inheritance (however unhappy that fact has made a good deal of our post-Enlightenment German scriptural and theological scholarship). OTOH, today’s Ever-Greater Europe now identifies itself almost exclusively with those it formerly oppressed. So why should it tolerate within its official precincts even a symbolic expression of the oppressors’ religion?

    At the same time Britain’s elites have been growing steadily more Europhile since at least the accession of that supreme Euromaniac Tony Blair. Assuming this sort of ethos has continued into today’s Tory-majority Britain, it’s not surprising that Cameron’s government should uphold the right of British Airways to forbid its employees the wearing of crosses (though apparently not the wearing of symbols of OTHER religions – cf. After all, as a world-class airline isn’t BA representing Britain – and by implication Europe – to to the world?

    I wonder too (or is it just my hypersensitive imagination?): The more we marginalize Christians from the public square, and the more we “centralize” within that same square the issues, complaints and concerns of Muslims, the HOTTER – i.e., more political and military – both religions are liable to become? But now suppose – just suppose – this trend were to become steadily worse, even BEYOND Africa: What sort of leaders, and what degree of surveillance, do you think will be required to keep the peace between THOSE Hatfields and McCoys?

    Modern Britain and modern Europe: Tweedledee and Tweedledum? Or just two more sad – and still more unhappily persistent – legacies of that swaggeringly confident, “History as we know it is ending” decade of 1995-2005? We shall see.

  • Andrew Allison

    I must concur with Mr Graham that Via Meadia appears to have not done its homework on this one. That said, if, “The UK govt case is that employers have the right to determine the uniform that their employees wear, unless the uniform in question represents an abuse of fundamental human rights.” it’s ridiculous on its face. First, the UK has an Established Church, the symbol of which, like that of its predecessor is the cross. The government is, in effect, arguing that no visible expression of personal opinion or belief to which an employer objects is permissible. Good luck with that!
    The uniform argument is equally flawed: does the employer in question actually require a uniform? since when has jewellery been considered clothing (off with all those those baubles, bangles and beads!).
    I think we know where this sort of totalitarian nonsense leads!
    p.s. I too am agnostic.

  • Andrew Allison

    The facts (surprise) appear to be quite different from CNN’s interpretation:
    Via Media Culpa!

  • Luke Lea

    Unwritten constitutions will only take you so far. First freedom of speech goes in Britain, then freedom of religion.

  • Jim.


    The problem with the “public money” argument is that there is no longer any limit to what public money may be used for, or how much of it may be used, or how much of my paycheck can be expropriated as “public money” if our aggressively secular government so desires.

    Protections for Conscience are woefully inadequate under the “public money” criterion. They are also woefully inadeqate under “business decides” criteria, as business has control over so much of our lives– working, shopping, entertainments, etc.

    Other criteria must be developed. In the meantime, the only equitable option is to err on the side of the individual believer.

  • ptet

    Luke Lea @ 15

    UK laws are subject to the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedoms of expression and religion, etc., which is written down.

    Jim @ 16

    Perhaps you’d prefer an “aggressively religious” government like that of Saudi Arabia or Iran? I kid, of course… But what kind of religious protections would you like, I wonder?

    If “protections for conscience” for “public money” are to be subject to the “individual believer”, then why should my taxes go to pay for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan? Or subsidies for oil companies? Or tax exemptions for religious organisations?

    No-one is preventing anyone from being Christian, here. The issue is whether religious symbols should be allowed in contravention of business policies. I agree we need “new criteria” here, but giving protections to religious people that are not available to irreligious people can’t be the right solution.

  • Kris

    What a heavy cross to wear bear!

    WigWag@10: Indeed, how I long for Churchill and Thatcher, two politicians who never made a single wrong decision. Also, can you point me to where Cameron is seeking to ban government employees from wearing crosses?

  • Andrew Allison

    @ 17 No, the issue is not whether religious symbols should be allowed in contravention of business policies, it’s whether employers have the right to prohibit reasonable expressions of opinion or belief in the workplace.

  • Anthony

    “People should be able to manifest their faith….” And “a source familiar with the intricacies of the case called the British government position incredibly crude and stupid.”

    The above quotes lend commonsense context to representational quality of Christian cross.
    Now, if only interpreters of article 9 of European Convention on Human Rights exercise similar commonsense…

  • Kenny

    There is no war against ‘religion’ in GB.

    It’s a war against Christianity only, not Islam or secular humanism..

  • Jim.


    Once again — do you realize how much of human life is subject to “business policies” nowadays? And do you realize how many of those “business policies” are in fact a direct result of aggressively secular employment laws? The protections we have now are inadequate.

    What would you say is the difference between preventing someone from practicing Christianity, and preventing them from “being” Christian? It seems to me to be a distinction without a difference.

    If you don’t like how the government spends money, clearly the only equitable solution is to give them less of it to spend. Otherwise, they’re going to continue to spend lots of it (50%, the majority of Americans believe) on things they don’t like.

  • ptet

    Andrew @ 17… You are quite right. This is a freedom of expression issue. No-one is stopping anyone from practising their religion.

    Anthony @ 20… Fair enough, there should be a “reasonableness” test. The lack of balance in interpreting human rights legislation has caused real problems. But this is not about suppressing “Christian” symbols. It’s about businesses trying to manage employee’s rights to freedom of expression.

  • Corlyss

    “We’re prepared to bet that she is not amused.”

    I’m prepared to bet tha she won’t comment, no matter how she feels about it.

  • Tom Richards

    The government is, in effect, arguing that no visible expression of personal opinion or belief to which an employer objects is permissible

    Sounds perfectly reasonable to me, providing it’s taken in the relevant sense. “No visible jewellery or tatoos” strikes me as a totally reasonable element of a work place dress code or uniform.

  • Alex

    I suggest that British Airlines should not use cruciform airplanes in their practice… As well as England should not use cross on the national flag. Simple white flag as a symbol of surrender is more appropriate for the country.

  • ptet

    Wow, Alex, ignorant and insulting. What a great combination.

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