PostScript Friday 20 June: see also reblog of Gillan Scott’s view and commendable interviews by Paul Burgin with the Rt Hon Gary Streeter MP about the group Christians in Parliament (of which he is chairman) and with Danny Webster, Parliamentary Officer with the Evangelical Alliance, mainly about the role of Christians in the media.
In today’s Telegraph Rosa Prince writes that during Prime Minister’s Question Time, David Davis MP asked about the case of Nadia Eweida. She is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights after having been barred by her employer from wearing a crucifix whilst working at Heathrow Airport.
Mr Davis described British Airways refusal to allow Miss Eweida to wear her cross as a “disgraceful piece of political correctness”. He asked the PM why the Government was opposing her appeal to complain that there are no protections under UK law for workers who wore religious symbols.
The Telegraph quotes Mr Cameron’s response:
“I cannot believe the Government is supporting the suppression of religious freedom in the workplace, so what are we going to do in this case?”
He said he that he is fully supportive of employees’ right to wear religious symbols at work, adding:
“I think it is an absolutely vital freedom….What we will do is that if it turns out that the law has the intention [of banning the display of religious symbols in the workplace], as has come out in this case, then we will change the law and make clear that people can wear religious symbols at work.” (emphasis added)
Miss Eweida’s constituency MP, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, supported her right to wear a cross and had written 18 months ago to the Home Secretary, asking for a change in the law. Theresa May had then told him this was impossible. Therefore, Mr Cable welcomed the PM’s words:
“So I am delighted by the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the law will be changed to allow people of all religious faiths to be able to wear symbols of their religion.”
The Telegraph’s reporter notes that Miss Eweida has been joined in her legal battle by the nurse Shirley Chaplin who was told by her employer, The Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust, to remove a necklace on which she had hung a cross. It is the first time, according to Rosa Prince, that Mr Cameron has explicitly promised to change the law in the event that the two women lose their case.
‘Mr Cameron’s announcement means that Christians and other people of faith will be given formal legal protection to wear religious symbols at work regardless of the out-come of the European Court case. If Miss Eweida and Mrs Chaplin are successful, then no changes to the law will be necessary because the case will form a legal precedent.
The loss of the case would mean that the Government would be expected to bring forth legislation providing protection for religious workers as soon as the parliamentary timetable allowed.’
Regular readers will appreciate my pleasure at such a possibility in view of my previous remarks about political interference and direction with beliefs in the health services and elsewhere, as I first announced in section 2 of this posting. It is also heartening to learn that the Prime Minister continues to defend our Christian heritage in this way.
POSTSCRIPT – for an excellent in-depth analysis see God and Politics in UK.