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Archive for April, 2012

While it’s quite easy to dismiss the Religious Right’s paranoia about the erosion of the freedom of religion, every once in awhile there are those reminders of how fragile the rights we take for granted can be. 

A case is moving itself up through the British judiciary involving two women (from different employers) who were ordered to remove (or in one case cover) the crosses around their neck while at work.  When both women refused they endured consequences, one was placed on unpaid leave and the other was removed from their usual rounds.  The British Government has chosen to defend the employers’ rights to ban crosses in the workplace, even more startling is the coalition of Christian ministers who have rallied around them.  Their arguments for why banning crosses is not an infringement on freedom of religion?  Wearing a cross is not “required” by the Christian faith. 

As any religious person knows, the line of what is a “requirement” is a very thin, gray line…and a line that everyone draws in different places.  Some people find daily prayers requirements, some don’t.  Some find headscarves requirements, some don’t.  Some people think using matza crumbs instead of bread crumbs in baked clams is kosher, some don’t.  Some think church every week is a requirement, some don’t.  The point though is not whether the cross is a requirement, but the shocking turn that suddenly we have gone from the freedom to practice our religious beliefs (whatever they might be) to the freedom to only do the bare requirements. 

The article in question reads like this: “1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community wiht others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. 2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”  For me…that reads pretty clearly that banning a cross is a violation.  As a Christian, I can vouch that wearing my cross is a manifestation of my faith.  It is not a requirement, nor do I think it a talisman or a good-luck charm.  My cross is my personal reminder that I am a Christian and that I should act in a way that honors that commitment and it is also my reminder that I represent Christianity, and in an age where I say “Christian” and you think Rick Santorum, I take that seriously.  Banning a cross is hardly necessary for the sake of “public safety, the protection of public order, [or] health” and wearing a cross does not infringe on someone else’s freedoms.  Banning it, however, does.

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