UK Christian electrician wins fight to keep cross in work van
WAKEFIELD, UK, May 9, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Colin Atkinson, a Yorkshire electrician who had been facing the sack because of an 8-inch cross that he kept in his work van, has won his fight with his employers for the right to keep the cross.
The 64-year-old grandfather had been asked by his employers, Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) in West Yorkshire, to remove the small palm cross, but he refused, citing his legal freedom to express his beliefs. Although the company had made the demand on the grounds of maintaining “neutrality,” Muslim, Sikh and Hindu groups as well as Christian leaders came to Mr. Atkinson’s defence, saying they saw nothing to be offended by.
WDH said, “We are pleased to announce that after prolonged negotiations with Colin and his trade union over the past nine months, we are on the verge of reaching an amicable solution, allowing Colin to be close to his faith while maintaining WDH values.”
In a mutually agreed settlement, Atkinson will move the palm cross from the company van’s dashboard to the outside of the glove box. In return, his boss will remove a poster of Cuban communist terrorist Che Guevara from the wall of the company office. A company spokesman also said that a Muslim employee would be allowed to wear a burka in company colours.
Atkinson responded to the agreement saying, “It is the best Easter present I could have wished for.”
“There is no triumphalism but I feel very positive about the fact that Christians can successfully stand up for their rights.”
The story broke last month that Atkinson had been threatened with “disciplinary” action after a single complaint about a small palm cross he had been keeping in his company van for 15 years. Atkinson told the Daily Mail and other news sources that he faced a full disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct.
WDH has a highly promoted “inclusivity” policy under which the organization has become active in several causes, including participating in “Gay Pride” events, “diversity days” for gypsies and hosting a “gender reassignment” event called “A World That Includes Transpeople.”
The same policy also allows employees to wear religious symbols at work.
Mr. Atkinson told the press that he had never been treated this way for his religious beliefs. “I have worked in the coal mines and served in the Army in Northern Ireland and I have never suffered such stress. The treatment of Christians in this country is becoming diabolical.”
Atkinson’s case, which hit the UK’s national newspapers shortly before Easter, was supported by the Christian Legal Centre. CLC head Andrea Minichiello Williams blamed recently installed equality laws for the increasing pressure on Christians to disappear from public life. They “have acted as a political lightning rod to eliminate Christian morality from the workplace,” she said.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who had also defended Atkinson’s rights, commented, “I’m so glad. All that was needed was a little bit of compassion and understanding. Where there is a bit of common sense we can find a resolution.”