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Long-serving employee under investigation for displaying palm cross in van

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Issued on behalf of Christian Legal Centre

Press Release

For Immediate Release

17 April 2011

Long-serving employee under investigation for displaying palm cross in van

A CHRISTIAN employee of a private not-for-profit organisation is currently under investigation and faces possible disciplinary action because of his display of a small palm cross in the company van he drives.

Colin Atkinson has worked for Wakefield District Housing (WDH) for 15 years, and has discreetly displayed his palm cross in the van for that entire time. Yet following a complaint from a WDH tenant, who suggested that the cross might offend other faiths, Colin has been put under huge pressure to remove the cross from his van. So far he has refused - and he is now being investigated for his alleged failure to comply.

WDH have claimed that they are a neutral organisation and that allowing a cross would be favourable to Christianity and could cause offense. However, WDH employees who are adherents of other faiths are allowed to wear headdresses, beards and turbans.

Colin will be informed about whether he will face his disciplinary action shortly. He is being represented by the human rights barrister, and standing Counsel for the Christian Legal Centre, Paul Diamond.

Colin said:

“I’m really shocked and surprised by all of this. I have always had that cross in my van. It’s a symbol of my personal faith. It’s not offensive. It’s in a discrete place and I am acting lawfully.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

"Colin Atkinson is a decent and hardworking man, yet after many years of service he has been told that he cannot continue to have a small palm cross in his van. This smacks of something deeply illiberal and remarkably intolerant. Freedom of expression now needs to be robustly defended. When a man can't display a palm cross in his van in a historically Christian country, it should give people serious pause for thought. Is this the kind of society that the British public want to live in?"

"The cross is a profound symbol of God's love for all of us. We should not be embarrassed about it, and the historic Christian character of this nation should be retained for the benefit of all".

"At the Christian Legal Centre, together with its sister organisation Christian Concern, we will continue to promote the Not Ashamed campaign encouraging Christians everywhere to be open about their faith and the hope it brings over Easter."

ENDS.

For further information / interview:
Andrea Minichiello Williams (CEO Christian Legal Centre):
07712 591164

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