British Government Argues That Christians Have No Legal Right to Wear Crosses at Work

The British government is set to argue, in a landmark court case, that Christians have no inherent right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work.

The case, which will be brought before the European Court of Human rights, brings together four separate religion discrimination suits, including two filed by British women barred by their employers from wearing crosses while on the job.

Nadia Eweida was suspended from her position as a British Airways check-in clerk in 2006 for violating the company's uniform code when she declined to tuck her necklace inside of her work shirt. Shirley Chaplin, a nurse whose surname is so close to perfect for this story, was banned from working on wards by her hospital when she refused to pin a cross necklace to the inside of her uniform.

In Chaplin's case, the hospital explained that it was not the cross that was the problem, but rather the chain to which the icon was attached, as dangling jewelry poses a health and safety issue.

Both women lost their discrimination cases in 2010. Now they want the European Court to rule those sanctions breached their right to manifest their religion, as guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Here's Article 9:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

The British government has come down in support of the companies; it argues that, since Christian doctrine does not require its followers to wear the crucifix, the choice to do so is not protected by Article 9.

In other words, wearing a crucifix is like thanking God in an acceptance speech: polite, but unnecessary.

If the court agrees, employers will officially have leave to fire workers who insist on visibly displaying their necklaces in violation of company uniform policy.

Surprisingly unhelpful toward the ladies' cause was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the principal leader of the Church of England, who stated earlier this week that "The cross has become a religious decoration," which religious people hang on to as a substitute for faith.

A spokesmen for Conservative Prime Minister and famed backyard barbecue attendee David Cameron said Cameron would consider changing British law to protect the right of Christians to wear their hallowed bling at work, should the European judges ruled against the women.

The War on Christmas starts earlier every year.

[Image (of LL Cool J — did you guess?) via Getty]