The cries of “persecution” are once again being heard in the hallowed halls of Westminster!
This week a cross-party group in parliament called for equality laws to cover religious beliefs. (I suggest they actually read the Equality Act 2010 – they’ll find that religion and belief are already protected characteristics.)
It follows a series of cases in which christians claim that they’ve been persecuted because of their religious beliefs.
Take the case of Celestina Mba. She is a 57 year old former care worker who has just lost an employment tribunal. She claimed constructive dismissal from her job with Merton Council because they refused to let her have every Sunday off. The tribunal heard that Celestina had been allowed Sundays off after starting work in 2007, but that in 2008 she was told this would end. When she refused to comply, she was threatened with disciplinary action. She resigned in 2010. The Tribunal found that she was contractually bound to work when required on Sundays and that keeping Sunday as a day of rest was not a ‘core component’ of christianity.
It raises the question of why, if Sunday is so important, she took a job that requires 7 day shift working! Celestina is quoted as saying “The Bible asks us to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy.”
That’s true! It’s Old Testament! It’s also Saturday!
This story was never about Merton Council discriminating against a christian – it was about failure to honour a contractual requirement. There is, however, discrimination in there somewhere. Not against Celestina, but against all the other staff who had to work on Sunday to cover for her!
We have had a rash of stories about christians claiming that they were being persecuted for their faith. You know the sort of thing – airline check-in staff prohibited from wearing a cross, a counsellor disciplined for refusing to work with gay men, the Islington registrar who resigned rather than conduct a civil partnership, the general synod being force-marched to a labour camp. That sort of thing.
Except that the last WOULD be persecution. But it aint happening now, won’t happen on MY watch and serves as a reminder that we really do need to keep things in perspective.