Two Christian British women have taken their case over religious liberty to the highest level, now set to square off against the Government of the United Kingdom at the European Court of Human Rights over their right to wear a cross or crucifix at work . In opposition to the women, the government will have to state publicly whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the symbol at work. The Telegraph reports that government ministers will argue that because displaying the cross is not a "requirement" of the Christian faith, employers can ban the wearing of the cross and fire workers who insist on doing so:
The European Court of Human Rights is based in Strasbourg, France, and is not a part of the European Union's patchwork of institutions but rather aligned to the Council of Europe, which is dedicated to the protection of human rights across 47 countries. The New York Times reports that the court considers cases brought against nations that are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, and notes that British Prime Minister David Cameron has recently called for the court to restrict its power to overrule national judgements.
RT reports that the U.K. government will now fight in the court against Eweida and Chaplin, asserting that the Christians have no right to wear a cross or crucifix at work:
The Telegraph reports that lawyers for the two women claim that the government is setting the bar too high in their position, and that "manifesting" religion includes doing things that are not a "requirement of the faith." They go on to argue that Christians are given less protection than members of other religions who have been granted special status for garments or symbols such as the Sikh turban and kara bracelet, or the Muslim hijab.
The government's position has been criticized by British religious leaders. The UK Press Association reports that The Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu has attacked the government for denying that Christians have a right to wear the cross at work, saying on the BBC's Andrew Marr show:
The Telegraph notes that Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, accused government officials and the courts of "dictating" to Christians, and said the government position regarding crosses was another example of Christianity becoming sidelined in official life.