Christine Dhanagom


Christian electrician facing unemployment for displaying palm cross

Christine Dhanagom

LONDON, August 2, 2011 ( - A UK Christian electrician who won a fight with his employer over his right to display a small Palm leaf cross in his van is now saying that the company has reneged on its agreement.

64-year-old Colin Atkinson was asked by his employers, Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) in West Yorkshire, to remove the cross after an anonymous complaint from a WDH tenant.

The company threatened Atkinson with disciplinary action when he refused, but backed down when their threats prompted a public outcry and criticism from prominent religious leaders, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey.

Atkinson and WDH had reached a compromise settlement which included the moving of Atkinson’s cross to a less prominent location in the vehicle and the removal of a communist poster from the office of Atkinson’s supervisor, Denis Doody.

Atkinson told the Daily Mail that one of the managers who had asked him to remove the cross was absent from the office after his return to work. He says he was told by the company that the individual was absent from the office due in part to his presence.

The company subsequently transferred Atkinson to a different worksite 16 miles away, after which the absent manager returned to work.

“I was the only person from my department working there,” Atkinson told the news service. “I agreed reluctantly at the start of this month but it was very difficult to do my job properly there.”

WDH also deprived Atkinson of the company van where he had displayed the cross, citing financial cutbacks. The former soldier was told to travel by bus instead.

Atkinson says he was asked to stay home after lodging a grievance procedure against the company for breaching its agreement. “My bosses have now offered me a pay-off to retire early but a condition is that I, my wife Geraldine and all my family would be prevented from speaking out publicly. That is not my style. It would be breaching my human rights,” he said.

“After a public outcry, Colin was allowed to return to work and to continue to display a palm cross in his van,” commented, Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre which has provided support to Atkinson. “However, since the media attention died away, he has suffered continued harassment and victimisation, and Wakefield and District Housing has not honoured its agreement to allow him to return to work. It seems that WDH hoped that Colin could be bought off and go quietly. But he will not be gagged or bullied.”

To contact Wakefield District Housing
Call: 0845 8 507 507
[email protected]

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