Christians call on Prime Minister to support 'Not Ashamed of the Cross' Campaign
Issued on behalf of Christian Legal Centre
For Immediate Release
6 April 2012 (Good Friday)
CHRISTIANS CALL ON PRIME MINISTER TO SUPPORT "NOT ASHAMED OF THE CROSS"
CHRISTIANS across the UK today (GOOD FRIDAY) are launching a campaign to urge Prime Minister David Cameron to turn his strong "words of support" for Christianity and its role in public life, which he expressed this week at a private ‘Easter Reception’ at Downing Street for senior church leaders, into "solid action".
At the reception, the Prime Minister, who attends church with his wife, Samantha, and their children, rallied over 100 senior church representatives with a strong call for the Church to be more active in British Society, backed by the Government. He said that he supported the "fight back" by the Church against rising secularism and the right of Christians to wear crosses at work and be open about their faith.
His comments come at a time when many Christians, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, fear that traditional values are being airbrushed from public life. A series of court cases have handed victories to secular campaigners, as Christians have been penalised for wearing crosses to work, for not wanting to work on a Sunday or even for just sharing their faith with colleagues or clients. In a recent case a Devon council was actually barred from saying prayers at the start of official meetings.
Mr Cameron told the attendees: "I think there's something of a fight-back going on, and we should welcome that. The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need." In a separately released Easter message, Mr Cameron said the festival was a time to "remember the life, sacrifice and living legacy of Christ".
However, the Christian Legal Centre can reveal that, behind the scenes, the official Government submission to the European Court (in relation to four cases where Christians have been denied equal rights to manifest their faith at work), betrays a very different position, as the Government submission backs the Judgments against all four Christians and denies their right to act according to their faith at work.
Now, the Christian Legal Centre's sister organisation, Christian Concern, is launching a campaign http://www.notashamedofthecross.org.uk calling on the Prime Minister to amend the Government's statement to the European Court of Human Rights in order to align the submission with his public pronouncements on the role of Christianity and to lend his Government's clear support for the Christians whose cases will be heard in Europe, ensuring freedom of religion and conscience in the work place.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, nurse Shirley Chaplin, one of the four Christians involved in the cases going to Europe, said:
"Reports that you believe that people should be able to wear crosses and that the law should protect such freedoms are to be warmly welcomed. I had worn a small cross, given to me at my confirmation, around my neck for nearly thirty years whilst working as a nurse. However, in spite of the fact that no danger or difficulty had ever been encountered and the fact that others were permitted to continue wearing religious dress, I was told to remove my cross. I chose to continue wearing it and as a result was removed from frontline nursing.
“Last summer, tens of thousands of people contacted you requesting that the Government defend basic, historic and sensible freedoms of belief and conscience in its submission to the European Court. However, the Government's submission stated that the wearing of a visible cross or Crucifix was not "a generally recognised form of practising the Christian faith". It also claimed that, since I was free to practice my faith outside of work, and also that I was free to resign my job, my freedom of religion had been sufficiently guaranteed! Surely this is no freedom at all.
"In light of your views, reported this week, I urge you Prime Minister not to wait until the cases are heard by the Court, but to act decisively now, ensuring that revised submissions are made expressing the Government's support for the vital principles of freedom of religion and conscience that are at stake."
Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder and CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, which has been backing two of the four cases now in the European Court, said that there was no better time for the Prime Minister to progress his support for Christians in this country in clear policy terms - before any more Christians lose their jobs for wearing discreet symbols of their faith in this "Christian country".
She said: "The Prime Minister's words of support for Christians this week are empty and hollow unless he translates them meaningfully into actions which support and protect Christians who find themselves increasingly marginalised in the public sphere.
"Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and the others who now face the European Court of Human Rights in their pursuit of justice, are calling on the Prime Minister to act on his stated convictions and on what he knows to be right. If the Prime Minister is to be trusted he needs to carry through on what he says he believes; otherwise he will be a man who disappoints, a man who appears like a chameleon, changing his tune according to whoever he is talking to.
"To say that wearing a cross is not a generally recognised form of practising the Christian faith and that Shirley's freedom of religion is not interfered with, when asked to remove it, because she was free to resign, is no freedom at all and at complete odds with everything David Cameron has said this week.
"The Prime Minister's aides told church leaders at the Downing Street reception that if the European Court goes against the four individuals, the Government will bring in legislation to support them. Why make the process so difficult? Our own Courts have already gone against Christians, and he and his Government know it. Why not simply change the Government's official position in Europe to help secure freedom for Christians now?
"This Easter, if the Prime Minister wants people of faith to take him seriously, then we call on him to act according to his words otherwise they will seem to be empty rhetoric. Good Friday was all about Christ demonstrating his leadership by serving others in all humility. We call on the Prime Minister to do the same."
For further information/interview:
Andrea Minichiello Williams: 0771 259 1164
Highlighted sections of the Government's submission can be found here (http://www.christianconcern.com/sites/default/files/ECtHR-HighlightedHMGResponse-ChaplinEweida.pdf) and can be quoted liberally as a public document.
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