Russian Churches to defend British Christians
The Orthodox Church in Russia is intending to assist two British women who were forbidden to wear Christian symbols. The women are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Russian Orthodox Church is going to challenge in court a ban on wearing crucifixes, which was recently introduced in the UK. Russian priests, together with Russian lawyers, intend to help two UK women who were prevented by their employers from wearing crucifixes as symbols of their Christian faith.
The case of stewardess of The British Airways Nadia Eweida and nurse Shirley Chaplin is considered to be unprecedented by many commentators. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly stated that BA, Ms. Eweida's employer should "just do the sensible thing" and allow here to wear her cross. Ms. Eweida and Ms. Chaplin have appealed to the Strasburg Court, calling their case a violation of freedom of religion.
Earlier, the women tried to defend their rights in a British court. But while their case was being investigated, the UK authorities worked out a draft law which, in fact, allows employers to sack employees who do not conceal that they are Christians. Moreover, the UK authorities are going to defend their position in the European Court of Human Rights.
Given the Orthodox's Church's support for symbols of faith a representative of the Russian Patriarch's Office in the Council of Europe has objected: "“The Russian Orthodox Church cannot watch this without expressing its protest!”
The decision of the Strasburg Court will apply to all countries that are members of the Council of Europe, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova – all countries where Orthodox Christianity is the most common denomination.
Speaking to the Voice of Russia Father Philip Ryabykh said: "It is a tradition among Orthodox Christians to always wear a crucifix. If the Strasburg Court’s decision turns out to be not in favour of these women, this would create a precedent which, I believe, would be very dangerous. This may become a start of persecution against Christianity in Europe, which is an unheard-of thing in the whole of European history!”
Meanwhile, Father Mikhail Dudko, an Orthodox priest in London said: "“Recently, a woman from my parish told me that her boss had ordered her not to wear a crucifix. She said to him: “Please allow me to wear it. I will wear it under my clothes, and nobody will see it.” He said: “There is a law that prohibits wearing a crucifix at work. Please obey this law!” The woman preferred to resign from her job.”
Most recently David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, described the airline's refusal to allow Miss Eweida to wear her cross as a "disgraceful piece of political correctness" and asked the Prime Minister why the Government was opposing her appeal. The former shadow home secretary challenged David Cameron: ""The behaviour of British Airways in this was a disgraceful piece of political correctness, so I was surprised to see the Government is resisting Miss Eweida's appeal.
"I cannot believe the Government is supporting the suppression of religious freedom in the workplace."
In response, Mr Cameron said he that he was fully supportive of employees' right to wear religious symbols at work, adding: "I think it is an absolutely vital freedom."
Permitted wear for Muslim nurses
in the NHS
He went on: "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."
According to a report in the Telegraph, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary who is Miss Eweida's constituency MP, welcomed the Prime Minister's words. In response to a letter that he had previously written to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, asking for a change in the law he was told this was impossible.
Father Dudko the Orthodox cleric observed:“This trend has appeared not only in the UK, but also in France and some other European countries: it resembles the persecution of religion after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.”
The Russian Orthodox Church believes that initiators of such laws in Europe should be stopped as soon as possible as otherwise, it fears, a total ban on any religion may be introduced very soon all over Europe.
Recently, representatives of the Church, in cooperation with experts from the Russian Institute of State-Confessional Relations, worked out a document which justifies the right of Christians to freely wear crucifixes - both from the legal and the theological points of view. This document has been sent to the Strasburg Court for review.
The Strasburg Court is planning to start hearings on the case of Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin on 4 September 2012.