March 29, 2010

Bishops allege “disrespect” against UK Christians


by Sara Levy

Anglican bishops have expressed “deep distress” over the alleged erosion of the religious rights of Christians.

In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, six bishops, including Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, said they are concerned about discrimination against Christians in the workplace.

“We are deeply concerned at the apparent discrimination shown against Christians and we call on the Government to remedy this serious development,” they wrote.

“There have been numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.”

In particular, the bishops cited a case of nurse Shirley Chaplain who was prevented from working in a patient facing role in the NHS because she refused to remove her cross necklace.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights campaign group Liberty, accused the bishops of “seeking to create divisions in society”.

“Safety concerns about the wearing of crosses can easily be met with breakable chains, but freedom of thought, conscience and religion should bind people of all faiths and none together,” she said.

“There are many who seek to create divisions in society and irrational bureaucracy plays into their hands.”

Jonathan Bartley of Christian thinktank Ekklesia agreed with Chakrabarti’s analysis.

Unless the bishops produce evidence of these “numerous dismissals”, they risk looking “stupid” and dishonest, Bartley said.

“When the claims of ‘persecution’ are scrutinised, they usually fall apart,” he said.

The claims by the bishops are “creating and then reinforcing a ‘victim’ mentality amongst some in the churches, which makes Christians fearful, inward looking and preoccupied with their own interests,” he added.

“This Britain that allegedly persecutes Christians, of course continues to afford many privileges to Christians.

“It has state funded church schools for example which legally and routinely discriminate in employment against those who aren’t Christians.

“The bishops should cite these “numerous” cases, or stop making such allegations.”

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