British Prime Minister David Cameron pictured with Pope Benedict XVI. CNS photo/Carl Court, pool via Reuters

Insult to the cross

  • March 13, 2012

In promoting new evangelization, Pope Benedict has lamented what he calls an “eclipse of the sense of God” in society.

In 2009 that eclipse was exposed in a very public way when an atheist won a much-publicized case (subsequently overturned on appeal) to have crucifixes removed from Italian classrooms. Since then, cases have abounded in which the state has sided with individuals clamouring to expunge religious symbols, holidays, prayer and even Christian conscience from public life. But recent actions by the British government elevate state-sponsored religious intolerance to a new level.

The coalition government of David Cameron has declared that citizens have no right to wear a cross around their necks at work and can be required to remove their cross if ordered by the boss. If they refuse, they can be fired.

In a case headed to the European Court of Human Rights, Britain will argue that two women who insisted on wearing a cross at work and were disciplined for it basically got what they deserved. The discipline was justified, argues the government, because wearing a cross is an option, not a requirement, of Christianity and therefore is unprotected by human rights legislation.

The case involves a British Airways worker and health-care provider who have led a fight against what they perceive is religious discrimination. After exhausting legal options in Britain, they appealed to the European court citing a human rights guarantee of freedom to assert “religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

But no such right exists for cross wearers, according to the British government. It supports the right of a Sikh to wear a turban or a Muslim to wear a hijab, but disputes that wearing a cross or crucifix is a “generally recognized form of practising the Christian faith,” let alone a requirement of the faith.

It is true Christians are not compelled to wear a cross. But it is ludicrous to imply that a cross is no more than an adornment unrelated to religious observance or practising faith. It’s also disrespectful to imply that Christians should hide their faith or meekly accept government thrusts to marginalize religion in society.

Christianity is to be lived in public view, not hidden behind closed doors. As Cardinal Thomas Collins recently said, Catholics should emulate the early disciples and boldly spread the message of the Lord by their words and actions. Wearing a cross is a sign of that faith. It symbolizes love, forgiveness and belief in salvation. It boldly expresses the hope and joy of Christianity while professing fidelity and giving witness to a Christian duty of discipleship.

To suggest, as the British government has done, that wearing a cross is insignificant to Christian faith is as wrong as it is insulting.


  • Comment Link Larry Maheu April 5, 2012 posted by Larry Maheu

    Dear Editor; Several years ago I met a woman who told me a story about how her husband invited her to accompany him on a business trip to Saudi Arabia.
    Whle they were at a restaurant, they were arrested because she was wearing a gold cross.
    Her husband was questioned for hours and almost lost his business contract. She never wanted to go back to the middle east again.
    Todat, we allow Islam on T.V. shows, and complete freedom to wear their garb, and live in this Christian-developed country of 400 years. We don't burn down mosques, or kill Imans like Christian churches, priests. bishops and parishioners are murdered without penalty.
    I honestly cannot understand why we let Muslims to come here, without demanding protection of Christians in their countries.
    Praying for God's protection is the only way to have peace of mind in this insane world.
    Larry Maheu

  • Comment Link trebert March 14, 2012 posted by trebert

    God exists in all creation and all human beings. We are all called to be ‘living symbols’ of that reality. When we accept our role to act as Godly individuals towards ALL human beings we will become outward expressions of an internal reality. By our loving actions we will no longer need to rely on symbols to express our faith.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has stated that Christians wearing crosses has little significance and that the cross is largely a decorative symbol these days.

    The wearing of religious symbols, dress, crosses, etc., have largely become a matter of division in our multicultural multi faith world.

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