Charity apologizes after telling chaplain he'd be disciplined for wearing cross

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A major charity in England has apologized to one of its chaplains after an official warned him he’d be disciplined and subject to retraining for wearing a cross lapel pin.

According to Christian Concern, the apology from charity Marie Curie was to Derek Timms, 73, a former businessman now serving as a chaplain.

The charity in September said its chaplains now would be “spiritual advisers.”

So a new staff member took over supervision, and meeting Timms, she told him that she was surprised he was wearing a cross and told him he should take it off.

She emailed: “If you would like to have a cross out of sight in your pocket and put it on when you know for sure that you are going into the room of a person of Christian faith, that would be acceptable, but also not particularly necessary.'”

Timms was told that a chaplain is there for people “of all faiths and none.”

Wearing a cross lapel pin, the charity official claimed, “can create a barrier.”

When Timms pointed out the charity’s Code of Conduct, and National Health Service guidelines had no reference to the prohibition of religious symbols, the new charity official said there would need to be “a decision about if you are suitable to continue…”

With the help of the Christian Legal Center, Timms responded with quotes from the European Court of Human Rights in a similar case that found, “It is a fundamental right to be able to manifest one’s faith by wearing a cross or other religious jewellery in the workplace.”

But an eventual meeting with charity officials resulted in their conclusion that he would need ‘retraining.”

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However, the organization soon reversed course. An official for the charity wrote, “I can confirm that currently we have neither an organizational or uniform policy that would support our recent request to remove your cross while supporting patients and families in the Hospice. I apologize unreservedly for the distress that we have caused.”

“We call on chaplaincy teams and leaders across the U.K. to not be ashamed of the Christian faith, but to uphold and cherish the crucial role Christian chaplains play in supporting people at the most vulnerable moments in their lives,” said Andrea Williams CEO of the center.

The issue previously was resolved in Eweida v. the United Kingdom, when the ECHR said, “The court reasoned that this right exists [to wear a cross pin], in part, because a healthy democratic society needs to tolerate and sustain pluralism and diversity. Equally important, the court noted, is the ability of a believer who has made Christianity a central tenet of their life, to be able to communicate the value of their faith to others. There is no requirement, according to the European Court, that wearing the religious jewellery in question is a duty mandated by the religion in question. It is enough that the individual wearing the religious symbol has a belief that their wearing of the symbol is intimately linked to their faith.”

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