A nurse in the U.Ok. goes to court docket after her cross necklace was deemed a office well being hazard. It is the newest instance of how the U.Ok.’s strained relationship with faith—that is the nation, in any case, through which a king created a brand new church to go well with his marital preferences—seems to be getting into much more unsettling territory.
Usually, we in the U.Ok. look towards the U.S. for indicators of the approach the winds are blowing. But in the case of what post-Christian society appears to be like like, the U.Ok., in addition to most of Europe, is forward of the U.S. and setting the tempo.
Since 2001, Mary Onouoha has labored at London’s Croydon University Hospital as an working theatre nurse. Until just lately, a dedicated Christian, she wore a small gold cross clasped to her neck with none points. But from 2014 onward, on numerous events she was advised she should disguise her cross underneath her uniform or take away it utterly, regardless of the hospital’s uniform code making allowances for the sporting of saris, turbans, kirpan, skullcaps, hijabs, and kippahs as a part of its “diversity” coverage.
By August 2018, the difficulty had escalated and he or she was advised her cross constituted “a health and safety risk to patients.” There was a menace of disciplinary proceedings earlier than she was moved to help a receptionist in a non-nursing capability, in breach of her nursing contract. Now Onouoha is difficult the London NHS Trust accountable on the grounds of harassment, victimization, direct and oblique discrimination, and constructive unfair dismissal. In quick: anti-Christian discrimination.
“This has always been an attack on my faith,” 61-year-old Onouoha says. “My cross has been with me for 40 years. It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm. Patients often say to me: ‘I really like your cross’, they always respond to it in a positive way and that gives me joy and makes me feel happy.”
It’s arduous to not conclude that the U.Ok.’s angle to Christianity is more and more unhealthy, regardless of the nation having a longtime Christian church. Onouoha can’t put on an merchandise that’s of giant significance to her and about 2.2 billion Christians in the world—even when different workers are sporting jewellery and earrings in the working theatre that might be slapped with the unhygienic label. Increasingly in public life there are extra overt indicators of this dissonance over faith, which Covid-19 and its attendant restrictions have exacerbated.
“The minutiae of our lives have been overseen, advised upon and regulated—from the number of people allowed to visit us in our private homes, to whether we can share serving spoons at Christmas—from what constitutes ‘essential’ shopping to ‘snitch lines’ to report on rule-breakers,” Laura Dodsworth says in an article about potential authorities surveillance plans justified by Covid-19. She notes that former U.Ok. Supreme Court choose Lord Sumption has branded the U.Ok.’s lockdown legal guidelines and guidelines “the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country.”
An unsavory nit-picky angle lurks in the British psyche—as the case of Onouoha’s cross attests to—which the authorities has taken full benefit of by means of the confusion and worry of the pandemic. The U.Ok.’s church buildings remained open throughout World War II, not so throughout Covid-19. It wasn’t helped by church authorities completely capitulating, none extra so than these heading the established Church of England.
This 12 months, a Good Friday service in a Polish Catholic church in London was shut down by the police for breaching Covid-19-related restrictions. Online footage confirmed worshippers being advised the gathering was “unlawful” and threatened with fines whereas the cops stood casually round the altar.
Not lengthy after, a 71-year-old Christian avenue pastor was arrested for inflicting “alarm and distress” in London by preaching about the biblical definition of marriage from Genesis 1 being between one man and one lady. As officers pulled him off a step ladder, a woman in the crowd protested: “It’s a Christian country, let him speak.” Others in the crowd had accused the pastor of homophobic statements and hate speech.
Then there may be the case of Christian preacher Hatun Tash at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park. Speakers’ Corner has lengthy been an icon of free speech in the U.Ok. and round the world. A former Muslim, Tash has change into well-known for her Christian ministry that drew threats of reprisals from Muslims. In July she was assaulted and slashed throughout her face. On September 13, Hatun was escorted out of Speakers’ Corner by police for her personal security regardless that she has acknowledged she needs to proceed to talk and believes Muslims are making threats simply to get the police to cease her preaching. She was advised by police that if she returned to Speaker’s Corner she could be arrested.
All this suits an more and more dissonant pattern as we emerge right into a post-Christian society that denigrates the symbols, beliefs, and even values of the very religion upon which Western civilization occurs to be based.
“Perhaps now more than at any other time since Constantine legalized the practice in the Roman empire, Christianity faces public intolerance and suspicion in Europe,” Roger Kiska wrote in a current Criticarticle about the Onouoha case.
He notes how the downside isn’t as a result of non secular freedom in the U.Ok. isn’t sufficiently protected. The Human Rights Act of 1998 does simply that. Hence in 2013, Nadia Eweida, an worker with British Airways—the U.Ok.’s flag provider airline—received her case at the European Court of Human Rights after British Airways made her cease sporting her white gold cross visibly when working. The court docket reasoned it’s a basic proper to manifest one’s religion by sporting a cross, partially, Kiska explains, “because a healthy democratic society needs to tolerate and sustain pluralism and diversity.”
But the land that prides itself on the Magna Carta—the constitution of English liberties granted by King John on June 15, 1215, which offered the basis for particular person rights in Anglo-American jurisprudence—seems to be changing into complacent about what underpins a wholesome democracy.
“It is a structural problem within our culture, including among institutions like the NHS and our judicial system, that simply do not grasp the importance of the cross to Christians,” Kiska says.
During my time working in Ethiopia, I used to be one among the few individuals not displaying some type of non secular image or garment. Almost each Ethiopian grownup and youngster wears a cross or crucifix round his neck. Ethiopia, one among the oldest Christian societies, stays one among the world’s most non secular international locations—other than the nation’s giant Muslim inhabitants, who put on what they need and are completely free to take action. Compared to Ethiopia, attitudes in the U.Ok. towards faith are more and more intolerant, falling behind a rustic we’d view as backward.
The U.S. is extra overtly non secular than the U.Ok.; it’s arguably the world’s most non secular developed nation. But that enthusiasm is matched at instances by an anti-religious fervor stronger than that in the U.Ok., too.
In a Spectator essay, “Godforsaken: religion is vanishing from American politics,” Damian Thompson argues that an underappreciated motive underpinning societal tensions in the U.S. is “the tectonic shifts going on between God-fearing America and its emerging secular twin.”
These forces collided most noticeably throughout the “devastating election year of 2020,” Thompson says, leaving Americans “waking up to the reality that four centuries of Christian flourishing have come to an end.” In its stead, he says, is a “hard-edged secularism that is fast becoming the default ‘religion’ of Americans born after 1981, less than half of whom describe themselves as Christians.”
The 2020 summer time of unrest noticed a wave of assaults on Christian properties throughout the U.S. with church buildings firebombed and pelted with Molotov cocktails, and heads taken off non secular statues. We haven’t skilled something on that scale in the U.Ok. Perhaps we obtained it out of our system throughout the Reformation. Instead, anti-religious strategies in up to date Britain are extra delicate, reflecting a deeper stage of confusion in comparison with the U.S., of the type described by Leo Tolstoy in his 1893 essay Religion and Morality.
“The instructions of a secular morality that is not based on religious doctrines are exactly like what a person ignorant of music might do, if he were made a conductor and started to wave his hands in front of musicians well-rehearsed in what they are performing,” Tolstoy wrote. “By virtue of its own momentum, and from what pervious conductors had taught the musicians, the music might continue for a while, but obviously the gesticulations made with a stick by a person who knows nothing about music would be useless and eventually confuse the musicians and throw the orchestra off course.”
The NHS seems to comprise some conductors who’re equally muddled. It’s now as much as the conductors of the U.Ok. judiciary to resolve whether or not that must be corrected or countenanced, and what place the Christian cross has in post-Christian Britain.
James Jeffrey is a contract journalist and author who splits his time between the U.S., the U.Ok., and additional afield, and writes for numerous worldwide media. Follow him on Twitter: @jrfjeffrey and at his web site: https://jamesjeffreyjournalism.com/ .