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OFF BEAT: British government expected to argue case of crufixes in workplace

Posted On: Mar. 12, 2012 12:00 AM CST

An apparent church vs. state controversy has emerged in England, with the British government expected to argue in a landmark court case that Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work.

According to an article in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, the government’s refusal to say Christians have a right to display crucifixes emerged after its plans to legalize same-sex marriages were attacked by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.

Responses objecting to the government’s stance on crucifixes have been voiced by prominent figures including the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, according to the article.

The Christian women bringing the case, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, claim they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing crosses.

They are asking the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, to rule that this breached their right to manifest their religion. The government is claiming that wearing the cross is not a “requirement of the faith” and therefore not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Carey said the British government’s reasoning “is based on a wholly inappropriate judgment of matters of theology and worship about which they can claim no expertise. The irony is, when governments and courts dictate to Christians that the cross is a matter of insignificance, it becomes an even more potent symbol and expression of our faith.”