Wednesday, 7 April 2010

NHS Crucifix Worrying for Sikhs and Muslims ?

At present I only have the Newspaper reports about the case of Shirley Chaplin.

Daily Mail
The Guardian
The Telegraph
The Independent

She is a Nurse in the NHS nurse in Exeter who has lost a claim for religious discrimination when she was told to remove a Crucifix which she has worn for 30 years. The reason apparently was fears about "Health and Safety" even though she has never had any problem in 30 years however Health and Safety, Human Rights and Data Protection are the 3 standard excuses all public bodies hide behind thse days in order to excuse stupid decisions.

There are a number of points which I find worrying in the case but the main one is the reported comment that the judgement includes the comment that

"there is no mandatory requirement of the Christian faith that a Christian should wear a crucifix"

This is of course correct but it is also irrelevant because if a member of one religion is permitted to wear "religious jewellery" then it is surely discriminatory to apply different rules to the "religious jewellery" of another religion on the basis of a difference in theology. In addition in the case of Sakira Singh the High Court accepted that religious jewellery (in that case a Kara) did not need to be "mandatory" it merely needed to be an important symbol of faith which surely applies to the cross.

What worries me about this case and the similar case of Nadia Eweida is that in both cases a perception is given that the wearing of the Cross by Christians should be treated less favourably than the wearing of the Sikh Kara or the Muslim Hijab. That is I feel unfair on Sikhs and Muslims who want to preserve their right to wear their own symbols but who do not want to prevent Christians wearing their own symbols. I have not come across a single Sikh who would consider that Sikhs should be permitted to wear the Kara in a situation where a Christian is not allowed to wear the cross and I worry that cases like this harm inter community relations and are in fact unfair on Sikhs and Muslims by making it look as if they are being given (and are seeking) unfair privileges.

I would like to see Sikh and Muslim organisations condemn this Tribunal decision and possibly come in as intervenors in the Appeal. This case, and cases like it, are fuelling feelings of discrimination and unfair treatment amongst Christians and those who may not be religious but who regard Christianity as their "cultural" religion. Such feelings are dangerous and can be used by extremists to ensure that Sikhs and Muslims are criticised for a decision which is not their fault and does not reflect their own views

No comments: