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Bishops call for Church of England to stand for Christian freedoms

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Three bishops are calling for the Church of England to defend the freedom of Christians to wear a cross in public, and to resist the growing restrictions on religious liberty in the UK.

The bishops are backing a motion at the General Synod criticising the ‘silencing’ of symbols and other visual displays of Christianity in the public sphere; and urging the church to publicly declare that wearing a cross is an integral part of the Christian faith.

The motion also calls on the church to stand against the ‘overzealous’ application of the 2010 Equality Act which has caused legal problems and even job dismissals for a number of Christians.

Cases before European Court

The motion is being supported by over 100 members of the General Synod,and explicitly mentions several cases of discrimination against Christians in the public domain; including that of Shirley Chaplin, an NHS nurse who was told not to wear her cross at work; and Gary McFarlane, who was sacked because he mentioned that he may have a conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to homosexual men after the issue was discussed on a staff training day.

The motion also cites the case of Lillian Ladele, who refused to conduct civil partnerships in her position as an Islington registrar due to a conscientious objection, and was subsequently sacked; and that of Nadia Eweida, who was disciplined for visibly wearing a crucifix pendant by her employer British Airways.

All four cases are due to be heard shortly by the European Court of Human Rights. The Government recently decided not to back the four Christians in their submissions to the European Court, but rather to argue that that the original decisions against them were correct.


The Rev Stephen Trott, a Rector in Boughton, Northampton, who drafted the motion, said:

“There are four cases being appealed currently to the ECHR and that’s an example of the sort of court action where we would be able to say that the established Church, which is part of the law of the land, takes the view that it’s not only a right, it’s a duty of Christians to manifest their faith in public.”

The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister, told the Sunday Telegraph:

“It is to say, OK, if you say wearing a cross isn’t a compulsory part of Christianity, we agree. But it is a duty of a Christian to be public about their faith as well as private, and that is clear New Testament teaching.”

“I hope the General Synod will affirm that because it’s saying to those judges – not all, but to those few – it is not quite as simple as you think.”

“Christianity isn’t to be privatised and shut away behind closed doors for consenting adults – it’s public.”

Tory MP Gary Streeter is now leading a cross-party group of parliamentarians who are conducting an inquiry into discrimination against Christians. Christian Concern, along with other organisations, has been giving extensive evidence to the enquiry.


The Telegraph


Christian Concern: Religious Freedom

Christian Legal Centre: Gary McFarlane

Christian Legal Centre: Shirley Chaplin

Report on intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe