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Public backs protection of Christian conscience at work

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72% of the public say that Christians should be able to refuse to act against their conscience without being penalised by their employer.

Draconian and politically correct rules which discriminate against Christians living out their faith in the public square have been slammed by the public in a new survey, commissioned to coincide with the launch of Christian Concern’s Not Ashamed campaign.

Christian Concern asked respected pollsters ComRes to seek the public’s views on whether the manifestation of Christian faith and the exercise of Christian conscience in the work-place should be censored, following recent high-profile cases whereby teachers and council workers have been suspended for offering to ‘say a prayer’, public and private sector employees have been told not to wear crosses, Roman Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close and those seeking accommodation for their biblical views on sexuality in the exercise of their work duties have been denied that provision.

However, it would seem that the sensitivities of politicians and employers are not in line with public opinion. In the telephone poll, carried out from 26-28 November, members of the public hit back at misapplied political correctness:-

  • 72% of British adults believe that “Christians should be able to refuse to act against their conscience without being penalised by their employer”.
  • 73% agree that “the right of people to wear Christian symbols such as a cross in their workplace should be protected by law.”
  • 87% disagree “that health care workers should be threatened with the sack for offering to pray with patients.”

At a time when the Coalition Government is relying on the churches and Christian organisations to spearhead the Big Society and develop a strong sense of community service, it would appear that the public backs Christians to manifest their Christian faith and exercise their Christian conscience in society at large and not only behind their front door or in their church.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:

This survey indicates that recent legislation and the way in which it has been interpreted in the courts is seriously out of line with public opinion. The vast majority of British adults support the general principle that Christians should be free to manifest their faith and exercise their conscience in the workplace without fear of punishment.

We are calling on senior politicians and judges to sit up and take notice. We need urgent action to rectify recent injustices and to see the law changed so that they are not repeated. If not, we can expect to see not only Christians but others in our society lose their jobs and reputations solely because they seek to undertake their public service with integrity to their own identity and convictions.

What many don’t realise is that the values, freedoms and institutions that have made Britain great and that are treasured by British people, are rooted in our Christian heritage. They did not emerge out of nowhere but are a direct result of Christian teaching about our common life. Rip out the Christian heart of our society and the likelihood is that these values and freedoms, that are sometimes taken for granted, will quickly disappear, to the detriment of all – as we have begun to see in public life in recent years.

Very often in the national debate we hear a lot from a small minority, with extreme views, that would like to see the Christian fabric of our nation destroyed. This poll suggests that their voice is not representative of the vast majority of the British public. I think that that is why the message of the Not Ashamed campaign resonates so strongly with so many – and not only Christians. People are looking for an opportunity to stand up and speak up for the Christian values that have helped make Britain great – and we need to do so if there is not to be further erosion.”

Details of the ComRes survey were delivered to 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace on Wednesday 1st Dec along with information about the new Not Ashamed campaign that seeks to provide an opportunity to speak up for the value and validity of the nation’s Christian foundation, for the good of the whole of society.

In an accompanying letter, signed by Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and organisers of the campaign, the Prime Minister was asked to review legislation that has led to the law appearing to side against Christians seeking to manifest their faith and exercise their Christian conscience at work. In the light of the Big Society agenda, he has also been asked what provisions and protections will be enacted to ensure that churches and Christian ethos organisations, already heavily involved in serving communities across the country, can continue to serve without compromising their distinct Christian identity and integrity, for the good of society.

Christian Concern’s Not Ashamed campaign has won support from church leaders and Christians from across the UK and from across the denominations. Thousands have already signed the ‘Declaration of Christian Hope for our Nation’ and wore a cross or items (such as lapel badges, wrist-bands and T Shirts) bearing the Not Ashamed logo to work or school, to witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and their conviction that He is a help not a hindrance to building a secure, prosperous and peaceful society.

It is hoped that the campaign will help to promote a national conversation in which the value of the Christian foundation of the nation for modern Britain can be articulated clearly and without prejudice.

For details of Christian Concern’s Not Ashamed campaign, please visit www.notashamed.org.uk.
For further information about Christian Concern, please visit: www.christianconcern.com.

Resources

Survey

Survey undertaken by ComRes on behalf of Christian Concern’s Not Ashamed Campaign.
*ComRes interviewed 1,006 GB adults by telephone between 26th and 28th November 2010. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules (www.britishpollingcouncil.org). Full data tables available at www.comres.co.uk.

Cases

A summary of various recent cases undertaken by the Christian Legal Centre:

Shirley Chaplin

After more than 30 years in frontline nursing, Shirley Chaplin was told that she would be in contravention of uniform policy if she did not remove the cross that she had worn since her confirmation. Her employer, the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust, argued that exemptions would only be permitted for religious and cultural symbols that were ‘mandatory’ within the religion. However, despite the fact that wearing a hijab is not compulsory within Islam, its use was to be permitted whereas wearing a cross was not.

The Trust claimed that Shirley’s cross and chain was in breach of health and safety rules and could cause harm to her or to a patient. In response, she offered to have a magnetic clasp fitted in the chain such that it would fall away if pulled. The Trust then stated that the cross could not be worn for risk of scratching someone.

Mrs Chaplin took the Trust to an employment tribunal, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, claiming that she had suffered discrimination on the basis of her religious beliefs but lost the case. Shirley is taking her case to the European Court of Human rights.

Owen and Eunice Johns

Experienced foster carers, Owen and Eunice Johns, who have raised four children, were asked as part of Derby City Council’s fostering application process, whether they would be prepared to tell children in their care that homosexual activity was ‘right’. When they responded that, in line with their Christian beliefs and biblical teaching, they would not be happy to do so, the Council unilaterally withdrew their application. Following intervention by the Christian Legal Centre, Eunice and Owen Johns in agreement with Derby City Council, asked the High Court to issue a Judicial Statement on whether the Council’s Equality and Diversity Policy was in direct conflict with Eunice and Owen Johns’ freedom of religion rights.

The case was subject to an intervention by the Equality and Human Rights Commission who claimed that those seeking to foster and holding views similar to those of Owen and Eunice would be in contravention of equality legislation and should attend ‘re-education’ programmes.
Judicial determination is awaited.

Olive Jones

Supply teacher Olive Jones was dismissed with immediate effect for offering to pray for a sick child and her family. Following intervention by the Christian Legal Centre and extensive media coverage, the council offered Mrs Jones another position but she had already found alternative work.

Sheila Matthews

Community paediatrician Dr Sheila Matthews was closely involved in adoption and fostering work. She asked to abstain from voting on the adoption panel in cases where prospective adopters were same-sex couples, on account of her professional judgment and biblical conviction that children are best placed with a father and a mother in a stable relationship, a position supported by scientific research. Sheila’s request was refused and she resigned from her job. Her claim that she had suffered discrimination on the basis of her Christian faith was rejected by the employment tribunal on the grounds that anyone who expressed the views that she had done would have been treated in the same way, regardless of religious position.

Duke Amachree

After 18 years of unblemished service, Duke Amachree, a homelessness prevention officer working for Wandsworth Council, was dismissed for gross misconduct after suggesting to a client with an incurable illness that the doctors did not have all the answers for which she was looking and asking whether she had considered putting her trust in God. Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Duke lodged a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds of discrimination on the grounds of his Christian beliefs but lost his case in August 2010.

Gary McFarlane

Whilst working as a relationship counsellor, Gary refused to confirm that he would provide directive sex therapy to same-sex couples, owing to his Christian convictions and biblical belief. No such scenario had arisen but Gary indicated that should it do so he would wish to discuss it with his managers. As a result he was dismissed by the charity Relate for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He lost a subsequent claim for discrimination on the basis of his belief and was refused permission to appeal. Gary will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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