The future and our choices

Here is an interesting story from The Mail Online:

Christian nurse ‘ordered to remove crucifix… at hospital where Muslims were allowed to wear headscarves’

By Luke Salkeld

A Christian nurse was ‘forced to choose between her job and her faith’ after being ordered to remove her crucifix at a hospital where Muslim staff wore headscarves unchallenged, a tribunal heard yesterday.

Shirley Chaplin, 54, said she had been wearing the religious symbol around her neck without complaint for 31 years before she was ordered to hide it away.

But the grandmother claims that after refusing to comply and then pointing out that two women doctors were allowed to wear headscarves, she was moved to a desk job.

Her case has caused uproar among Christian support groups,  who feel their beliefs are not being given the same respect as other faiths. At the weekend her case against the NHS was backed by seven senior Anglican bishops who issued a national letter of support.

Yesterday, on the first day of an employment tribunal, Mrs Chaplin, from Kenn, near Exeter, Devon, told of her fight to be allowed to carry on wearing the crucifix.

She is claiming religious discrimination in a case backed by the Christian Legal Centre, which says her treatment is a symptom of increasing discrimination against Christians.

Mrs Chaplin is due to retire later this year but hopes the case will force the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital to change its policy so staff can openly wear crucifixes.

The hospital says she was asked to remove the necklace after a risk assessment showed it could be pulled by one of the patients in her care. They insist it is a health and safety issue and that the problem is not with the crucifix but the necklace it is attached to[No one could ever pull a… say… lab coat… hair… hospital scrub top… head scarf.]

Mrs Chaplin told the tribunal in Exeter she was given the crucifix as a confirmation present and had worn it without complaint throughout her 31-year career.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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30 Responses to The future and our choices

  1. Phillip says:

    Yes, for 31 years the necklace posed a clear danger to her safety, and they’re only now getting around to telling her not to wear it.

    Do they really expect anyone to buy that? Actually, I already know the answer, unfortunately.

  2. Random Friar says:

    As Mr. Shea is wont to point out, all faiths are equal, some more equal than others.

  3. Random Friar says:

    (That’s a reference to Animal Farm, and it’s a political statement, not a theological one, before any accuse him of indiffirentism).

  4. Ezra says:

    Mrs Chaplin lost her case, it seems.

  5. Phillip says:

    For those who, like myself, commented before reading the full story, Fr. Z’s extract left out the most damning part of the article:

    “Her superiors refused a suggestion she wear the cross pinned to her uniform, to remove the ‘risk’ of the chain. She said this confirmed to her that ‘they simply wanted to remove the visibility of the crucifix’.”

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with health and safety. Just sad.

  6. mike cliffson says:

    Coming to you soon from a work superior/client/neighbour/passerby near you…….

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    I was mildly repremanded at my last job for simply stating that although I disagreely strongly (note how pussyfooty I was) with their lifestyle that I could work on a professional level with gay people whilst answering a question from a co-worker about how my faith impacted my life

  8. ContraMundum says:

    Hmm…. To be honest, I’ve tried sleeping with a crucifix around my neck, and I can’t do it. As I drift off to sleep and become irrational, I feel like I’m being choked, so I pull violently at the chain — and every time it breaks. That’s good: I WANT the chain to break rather than be a potential garotte. Fortunately, extra-large scapulars don’t feel as restrictive.

  9. sawdustmick says:

    I am waiting for someone to tell me to remove the small Crucifix I place on my note book next to a small picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on my desk each day. I don’t work for the NHS but a similarly politically correct organisation. I also wear a white uniform shirt through which can clearly be seen my scapular.
    …….just waiting……..

  10. Joanne says:

    Mick, I’m going to Mass shortly, will say some prayers for you in the presence of Our Lord! Best to you -

  11. Archicantor says:

    While I agree that it’s a little silly for them to be going after this woman (31 years ought to be enough to establish the usage praeter or contra legem), we ought to keep some perspective: as Christians, we are not required by our religion to wear distinctive clothing (the specific dress of the clergy and those in Religious life aside). This is entirely different from, for instance, the case that arose some years ago here in Canada when Sikh officers in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police asked to be allowed to wear turbans (in an appropriate colour) instead of the famous Mountie Stetsons. Long hair and a turban are part of a Sikh man’s religious practice, and so an accommodation was made. By contrast, a Mountie could not reasonable ask to display a cross on his uniform: it would express a purely personal piety.

  12. Supertradmum says:

    Look at the stages of persecution I listed on this blog last week. This is an outright persecution of Christians. We had to remove crucifixes from a Catholic high school which got grants from the Canadian Government, several years ago. We need to take these happenings to court every time this happens.

  13. sawdustmick says:

    Joanne, Thank you. I think the reason no-one has said anything yet is that there hasn’t been an official “complaint”. Probably a case of let sleeping dogs lie ?

  14. ipadre says:

    God bless this woman for her courage! If more Catholics followed her example, we would not be in the sad shape we are today.

  15. Philangelus says:

    Since they claim the risk is the chain rather than the crucifix, I’d probably have opted for wearing a crucifix on a pin, but get a larger crucifix and make sure it was visible.

    My SIL is a police officer and has regulations about how she can wear her hair because an unstable or angry person could grab it and yank her head backward. I understand safety considerations. But a pin should be allowed. Also, in many hospitals the staff wear tags on their necks on breakaway chains. I’d put it on the breakaway chain and see if the supposed “danger” persisted.

  16. Scott W. says:

    While I agree that it’s a little silly for them to be going after this woman (31 years ought to be enough to establish the usage praeter or contra legem), we ought to keep some perspective: as Christians, we are not required by our religion to wear distinctive clothing

    True enough, but in the concept of freedom of religion, I’m not aware of a part that says, “but only if your particular religion requires it; if it is optional, consider it banned from public display.” The fact is there is only one religion being singled out here; and, like the police in the English riots, it happens because Christians lie down and take it.

  17. pedantic_prof says:

    I am sympathetic to the lady and hope she wins the case, though am not convinced it’s anti-Christian zealotry; as Archicantor points out, wearing a crucifix is not an integral part of our faith in the same way a kippur or turban is. In my office at the state university I teach at, there is a crucifix, a picture of Benedict XVI, and a photograph of myself as a boy meeting John Paul II. If ever asked to remove these I would reply that I work on iconography (it’s a San Damiano crucifix), I admire Benedict’s scholarly work, and the photo is not religious per se. Of course, no one will ever complain as people have better things to do. Departments are not supposed to have Christmas trees but a lot do and a blind eye has always been turned…

  18. Di says:

    For all of you who do not know this the Thomas More Law Center
    Defending the Religious Freedom of Christians
    Protecting the Sanctity of Human Life
    Restoring Traditional Family Values and Patriotism
    http://www.thomasmore.org/default-sb_thomasmore.html?647359362. Please give to them they need help because they do most of the work for free, they only receive donations so please give generously and please pass this information on to others.
    God Bless Us we need it more than ever!!
    Di
    Si vis pacem para bellum!!!
    2Timothy 2:1-5
    1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in Christ Jesus: 2 And the things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men who shall be fit to teach others also. 3 Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses: that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself. 5 For he also that striveth for the mastery is not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

  19. yatzer says:

    Actually, headscarves are not required by the Muslim religion. I have known plenty of Muslim women who wear no such thing. Some Muslim interpretations may THINK all women should wear them.

  20. Scott W. says:

    Actually, headscarves are not required by the Muslim religion. I have known plenty of Muslim women who wear no such thing. Some Muslim interpretations may THINK all women should wear them.

    Good observation and gets back to what I think is an important point: where did we get this idea that if a religious practice is optional, it should be shuffled off the public stage like shoving your crazy aunt into the attic and locking it?

  21. PhilipNeri says:

    During my Clinical Pastoral Education program at a major mid-west Catholic hospital I was harassed daily for wearing my habit. The harassers? My fellow chaplains: three Dominican sisters, a female UCC minister who proudly wore her Gay Pride rainbow buttons, and an Episcopalian chaplain who thought she was a Catholic priest. These five tried every trick they could think of to bully me into civilian clothes. I finally had to go to the director of pastoral services and threaten to file a harassment complaint with the hospital and the archdiocese. The harassment stopped; however, the chaplains managed to convince the hospital administration that religious habits were a “safety issue” and so permission to wear them while on duty was dropped in the next year’s handbook. Tyranny through bureaucracy!

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  22. irishgirl says:

    In the years I worked in finance (just back-room clerical stuff), I had holy pictures and photos of me with two priest-friends on my desk, and I never got any hassle from either co-workers or supervisors.
    What this poor woman in England had to go through is a disgrace.
    Father Neri, I’m glad that you went after the feminazis after they harassed you for wearing your habit! Good for you! I know you wouldn’t take any nonsense!

  23. poohbear says:

    While I agree that it’s a little silly for them to be going after this woman (31 years ought to be enough to establish the usage praeter or contra legem), we ought to keep some perspective: as Christians, we are not required by our religion to wear distinctive clothing (the specific dress of the clergy and those in Religious life aside). This is entirely different from, for instance, the case that arose some years ago here in Canada when Sikh officers in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police asked to be allowed to wear turbans (in an appropriate colour) instead of the famous Mountie Stetsons. Long hair and a turban are part of a Sikh man’s religious practice, and so an accommodation was made. By contrast, a Mountie could not reasonable ask to display a cross on his uniform: it would express a purely personal piety.

    This is so wrong. Are the non Muslim officers allowed to wear long flowing beards and turbans? Probably not. This is nothing more than discrimination, just as is the case cited in this blog entry. To require anyone to remove a symbol of their religious beliefs while allowing others to continue to wear theirs is flat out blatant discrimination. They tipped their hand at not allowing the pin, proving their necklace pull scenario was a lie. This woman needs to sue her employer big time.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr. Neri,
    Good for you for standing up to those petty tyrants!
    I can’t help noting that your persecutors were all women — and all ostensibly functioning as “chaplains” . . . . the “chaplain” of the Catholic youth program at my daughter’s college (a Presbyterian school) was much the same. She thought she had walked into a buzzsaw when she tried the wymynpriest nonsense on yrs truly. . . of course I had absolutely nothing to lose by challenging her (very politely of course but hard facts and tough questions) and I hope the kids learned something.
    I think eventually the local bishop made her stop calling herself a “chaplain”. She was a menace, leading malleable kids astray. Many of the more serious students (my daughter included) quit going to Mass on campus and started attending a nearby parish that is straight up orthodox Catholic. But of course that left the lukewarm and the naive at her mercy.

  25. AnAmericanMother says:

    Archicantor,
    I have to disagree.
    Your interpretation favors those religions which are authoritarian and mandate every jot and tittle of a believer’s conduct, dress, and actions.
    Why should Catholicism, which beyond its core beliefs allows its adherents free will, discretion, and personal preference in their private devotions, suffer under gag rule in favor of a religion that commands its followers which hand to use to eat with and what to do with their fingernail clippings?

  26. Moro says:

    Years ago, a friend told me that homosexuals pushed their agenda through a technique called jamming. They would make homosexuals, homosexual couples, etc. ever present in media, etc. to make it appear normal.

    I think something we can all do is jam our secular society with holy cards, crucifixes, statues, images, etc. 99% of work places will not care and it will potentially open the door to evangelization. At the very least, it will help religion look more normal.

  27. Archicantor says:

    @poohbear: Sikhs are not Muslims. And let’s not forget that we’re talking about uniforms here, whether it’s Sikh Mounties or Christian NHS nurses. Sometimes accommodation can be made, sometimes it isn’t. But that’s up to the people who decide what the uniform is (as in this US DoD document: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/130017p.pdf). If this nurse could get a letter from her parish priest insisting that wearing a crucifix was a vital part of her religion, then they’d have to make some sort of reasonable concession. But I seriously doubt whether any priest would write that letter. And let’s suppose that there really were a legitimate safety concern: would she still insist on wearing it? Do you know many electricians who wear their wedding rings to work on principle?

    @AnAmericanMother: I am startled that you consider Catholicism to allow greater free will than other religions: the Catholic way of life is (or ought to be) just as all-encompassing as any other. It’s just that the hallmarks of Christian life are often unobtrusive in Western cultures in which Christianity has historically been dominant. To take just a small example, Western men remove their hats as a sign of respect when entering a place of worship or other place of solemn business (cf. 1 Cor. 11:4). This basic assumption caused a dust-up some years ago when the Royal Canadian Legion tried to bar Sikh men from their meeting halls unless they removed their turbans, which to observant Sikhs (and we’re talking about Sikh war veterans here) was insensitive to say the least. Whenever we, as American, Canadian or British Christians, start to feel like other religions are getting “special treatment”, we need to remember that what we think of as our exercise of free choice takes place within the context of a (formerly) Christian society where doing the “Christian” thing often doesn’t attract attention. Similarly, nobody is necessarily going to notice that a Christian woman has dressed simply and modestly (1 Tim. 2:9), because “modest” for us just looks “normal”. For a non-Christian, what counts as “normal” in the West may not count as “modest” (e.g. the hijab, which is not primarily a religious symbol — like a crucifix — but a garment of modesty: Koran 24:31).

    Let me stress that I too am irritated by these bureaucrats going after this woman: it’s only a big deal because they have made it a big deal. But it would be out of all proportion for us to go berserk complaining about discrimination against Christians in a country (in this case the UK) where the head of state is also the head of a national Christian church; where bishops sit by right in the upper house of Parliament (and can vocally complain about a case like this one); where there are many state-funded Christian schools; where churches can reclaim tax payed on donations they receive; where everyone gets a holiday on Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day, the Octave of Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter Monday; where Palm Sunday processions go unmolested. And that’s just the obvious stuff. All of it could change, of course; and there is a growing trend of grievance-mongering on the part of a spoiled, joyless secularist set in British society. But a Christian’s being asked not to wear jewellery with surgical scrubs is not, of itself, religious persecution.

  28. pedantic_prof says:

    It may well be motivated by religious intolerance, but fear it’s more the tyranny of ‘ealth and safety regulations which is making it impossible for Britons to engage in any activity. The rules don’t always apply to all: David Cameron visited a hospital a few weeks and the camera crew were dispensed from the draconian requirement of being in shirtsleeves to prevent infection. A senior surgeon came in and remonstrated at this, since he and all other staff have to follow this to the letter or face disciplinary action (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIQWaBbURlY). The poor fellow, David Nunn, has been on “leave” ever since this incident…

  29. Grace says:

    Someone already pointed out that Muslim headscarves are not mandatory. It is modesty that is mandated; I would suggest that wearing a headscarf in the West is attention-getting and making a statement– the opposite of modest. I wonder about Sikh turbans, too, but I don’t for sure. All I know is that in Greece, all of the Sikhs I know (about a dozen), willingly and quickly ditch the turban in order to fit in.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    Garrigou-Lagrange, in his amazing writings, wrote of the tyranny of sentimental humanitarianism. This is a heresy which can be called “soft, gooey love” and acceptance without reason. What has happened in the West, is a sad, sad depreciation of the core values and symbols of Christianity by those who profess to be “tolerant” and “open-minded”. Therefore, one can denigrate Christian symbols, be even blasphemous in art and drama and get away with it, while, on the other hand, any slight of Islam is considered intolerance and one is labelled a hater of Islam and Islamists. Catholics themselves, and especially New Age politicians, as well as those who do not believe in any religion, bend over backwards to allow religious customs of anyone but Catholics or Christians. When I was working many years ago for the State of Iowa in a fairly high position, we were all given a memo by an ex-Catholic director, that mugs, artwork in the cubicles, even angels on sweatshirts ( popular then ) were forbidden. No crosses, no mugs with Christian symbols, etc…..I rebelled, of course, and brought in a golden frames Dilbert print of his Catbert dressed as a bishop, stating “Out, out, demons of stupidity”. I was told it was in bad taste….Political correctness gone wild is the issue here, not health safety or anything. Also, one only has to look at the typical staff in a British hospital or clinic. My doctor here is from Pakistan and a Muslim. We talk about cricket, or the lack of it. One is not allowed to “offend” anyone but God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.