Monday, 18 April 2011

Just a bit silly?

Well, it looks like we have another story about the "persecution" of Christians in our secular society.Colin Atkinson, a 64-year-old electrician in Wakefield, West Yorkshire faces the sack for displaying a palm cross in his van.  It all started when his bosses at the Wakefield and District Housing complex received an anonymous complaint about the cross.
Now, let's be clear that Mr Atkinson is not facing "persecution" for his Christian faith, he is facing disciplinary action because he refused to remove a personal item from the van at his employer's request. It is not a stipulation of the Christian faith that you should display a palm cross in your work vehicle, the vehicle is not private property and I guess the employer has the right to call the shots on this one.
That said, the complaint does seem extremely petty! I am not keen on anonymous complaints anyhow and there really are more important things in life than whether your builder has a palm cross on his dashboard! Such a complaint is arguably vexatious (especially as it was anonymous ) and it is ridiculous that such a trivial matter should be allowed to escalate to the level of disciplinary action involving termination of employment.
That said, it often takes two to tango; some might suggest that the mature way to respond might be for the employee to  remove the cross. This is not to say that either Mr Atkinson or the employer tried to escalate the matter instead of finding reasonable ways to resolve it- it is for the courts to decide the rights and wrongs.

But, what a fuss and waste and time and money over an entirely trivial matter!


  1. The palm cross appears to be in a position to restrict the driver's vision, which may not be a trivial matter. I do agree this is not a story about persecution of Christians.

  2. We shouldn't really put anything on the dashboard as the reflection can impede vision (I do though!) I watched a report on the TV this morning about this case which did not attribute it to a complaint but to the employer's fears that ethnic minorities would be offended.
    The builder was interviewed (wearing his not ashamed T shirt.)
    Sounds like a story of monumental silliness to me!

  3. I agree, there is a good deal of silliness around these cases.

    I used to manage a residential home (run by a Christian charity) and I well remember reprimanding a member of staff for having Premier Radio (Christian station) on full belt – she was a member of a large Ghanaian church in north London. At the time the residents were eating their evening meal and she had the radio on in the kitchen next to the dining room, the residents complained to me (it says a lot that they didn’t feel comfortable in their relationship with the staff member that they couldn’t ask her themselves...). The staff member got very arsy with me, wittering on about ‘Christian organisation’ etc. – missing the point that the residential home was actually someone else’s home and crap blaring while you’re trying to eat your supper is not what most people would like (the non-Christian chef had also been similarly cautioned for having Capital FM on full volume – the issue was respecting other people’s living space, not about religion). The same Christian member of staff would walk around the home wailing (you couldn’t call it singing) ‘Praise Jesus’ ‘Jesus is Lord’ over and over – again I reprimanded her for this and again was met with consternation – she intimating that she was praying and that was her right as a Christian. The issue of her being in someone else’s home didn’t enter her tiny, conceited head – not to mention the fact she made a rancid noise. It is interesting to note that she was a very difficult person to manage, had an appalling attendance rate, told lies a child could see through and was generally a pain in the arse – as was the case with many of my more vocal Christian staff. I often thought it would be better if these ‘Christians’ followed Jesus’ and Paul’s advice that their conduct should be their badge of belief, rather than outward symbols. Comment was made in the case of the BA worker and the cross, that she was not the easiest of employs – inflexible and judgemental – this seemed to echo my own experience of managing overtly religious staff (not just Christian). (Tho’ thinking about it, many of the most difficult staff I have managed over the years been overt Christians... There was an inflexibility in their attitude, often only seeing things from their perspective.)

    It is the fact that religion was brought into the equation when there was no need to do it that annoyed me. In my home town a last year two Muslim taxi drivers were fined for refusing to take a blind man and his dog. The local paper ran the story with a comment from some imam who said their refusal to take the dog was because Muslims thought dogs unclean. My thought was this was just tosh – the drivers didn’t want dog hairs in their cabs. You don’t see Muslim taxi drivers refusing to take people home from Tesco’s because they have a bottle of milk stout, eight rashers of bacon and a lottery ticket with them do you? All items ‘unclean’ in the eyes of Muslims.

    Religion has come to the fore as a virtuous way of excusing disobedience and self-seeking. That said, who really gives a flying f*ck about a Palm Cross on the dashboard of a car? To me it seems petty that the man’s employers made a fuss about this – and petty that the man got arsy about being cautioned for putting a possession of his own in a prominent place of a van that doesn’t belong to him. As a manager I used to police what staff could put on their desks or pin up at their work stations or on their locker doors. I particularly discouraged joke posters or postcards – one person’s joke is another person’s offence; the same went for sexually provocative images. Was I infringing their human rights? No, it was my job to use my judgement on how a shared environment could be used.

    Hopefully this current ‘professional martyr’ or his employer will see sense... But as you say, what a waste of time and money?