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Andrew Lilico

Andrew Lilico: The government should protect the right of Christians to be visible

The government is to defend a European Court of Human Rights case brought to uphold the right of Christians to wear the cross openly.  The government's position is that the wearing of the cross is not a requirement of the faith, and hence not entitled to protection.  The government's view has been supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who says that the cross is just form of decoration and in no way essential to the Faith (indeed, can be treated as a substitute for true faith).

Suppose there are two religions.  Both religions believe that God insists that members of the religion make their faith known to others around them.  In Religion A this obligation takes the form of mandating that all practitioners of the religion wear a tall top hat with the words "I am a believer in religion A" emblazoned on it in bright red blood, drawn from a cow slaughtered by the light of the full moon.  In Religion B there is simply a general obligation to make the religion known.

Now suppose that many followers of Religion B choose to make it known that they are such followers by means of a small fairly unobtrusive but still visible lapel badge that says "B".  No-one thinks that wearing such a lapel badge is, per se, an obligation of Religion B.  There are lots of other ways it could be done.  For example, every time one met a follower of Religion B that person could say - "Hi, I'm Mary, a follower of Religion B."  But most other ways would be more obtrusive than the lapel badge, so although some extrovert B-followers do indeed go for the overt greeting, more reserved people content themselves with the badge.

Next, suppose an employer felt that employees debating religion was a distraction from work and might undermine team cooperation.  So such an employer decided to restrict all religious expression in the workplace other than that protected by the law.  But there is a legal protection for religious observance.  What will happen? Is the right thing to happen here that we say: Under Religion A there is a specific obligation to wear the top hat, so that is protected, but under Religion B there is no specific manifestation mandated of followers, so no manifestation of Religion B is protected - e.g. we forbid wearing the lapel badge, because that is not a religious obligation, and we forbid the overt greeting, because that is not an obligation either?

Isn't the consequence of such an approach entirely perverse?  What happens is that the inflexible taboo-based religion is protected, but the flexible religion that focuses on the spirit of the command is oppressed?  Isn't that just plain dumb?  Set aside the fact that I'm a Christian and that Anglicanism is the state religion and all the many other reasons there would be for believing that Christian religious expression should be privileged over other religious expression - "equality" is just the wrong startpoint here.  Let's forget that for now.  Isn't it just plain stupid that a religion the rules of which should make it easy to fit in to a tolerant multi-cultural and multi-religious society is the one that such rules oppress, whilst it is the inflexible religion that the "secular liberal" protects and privileges?

Christians have a religious obligation to make their faith known to others.  This appears in numerous places in the Bible, most famously in Matthew 28:19ff ("Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.").  Christians cannot submit to laws or rules that forbid them from proselytising - to do so would be to accept the commands of men over the commands of God.  Exactly how they do that depends on context.  So of course if there is a safety issue (say), then a Christian is not required to wear jewellery - some other form of overt expression of our faith will be more appropriate in that context.  But the central point of many the restrictions made on Christian jewellery is that employers seek to prevent Christians from proselytising at work.  If they don't want Christian proselytisers, they don't want Christians.  What will happen then is that Christians will apply for the jobs disguising their faith, and then proselytise in secret - breaking the rules of man in favour of those of God - and Christianity will be forced underground and thus oppressed.

Why??  The only reason Christianity is made a target is because it is gentle and agreeable.  When someone soaks a Bible in urine, we call it Art.  When someone disposes of a Koran by burning it, thousands riot and murder and instead of saying that riot and murder are unacceptable and it is a fundmental right in a liberal society for someone to burn a Koran if that is convenient (just as we dig our heels in and proclaim it a fundamental right for the artist to soak the Bible in urine) we issue apologies for burning the Korans.  The reason is clear: the Muslims in question are highly disagreeable, whilst the Christians in question are gentle and philosophical and bear their shame and distress with fortitude and grace.  Other religions are permitted to wear their religious symbols but Christians forbidden to wear theirs, because Christianity is flexible and agreeable.

Our system punishes what is gentle and tolerant and rewards inflexibility, violence, mayhem and making a spectacle of oneself.  Well - if that's the way you organise your society, don't be surprised when in due course you reap the rewards of the incentives you create.


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