Irish Protestant Politician Advocates Right of Catholic Student in UK to Wear Crucifix Chain

Mon Jan 15, 2007 - 12:15 pm EST

By Meg Jalsevac and John-Henry Westen

  KENT, England, January 15, 2007 ( - Another British school has forbidden a student to wear a small crucifix on a chain around her neck.  Samantha Devine, a 13 year old student at Robert Napier School in the southeastern county of Kent was sent home after she refused to remove the crucifix that she was wearing around her neck.

  Napier officials touted school dress-code policy which prohibits jewelry of any kind as a "health and safety" precaution unless the jewelry is an "essential requirement" of religious apparel.  Deputy head-teacher Paul Jackson explained, "We have no reason to believe this to be the case in this instance." Devine was told that she could wear a crucifix as a lapel badge or pin but not on a chain around her neck.

  Devine and her family object, arguing that members of other religions are permitted to wear religious articles that technically violate the dress-code.  Mr. Devine, an ex-serviceman, calls the situation "Political correctness gone absolutely mad."  Devine said, "It makes me wonder why I protected my country when we can’t even protect my religious beliefs."

  Samantha says Muslim students may wear headscarves and Sikh pupils are allowed to wear turbans and bangles to class.  She said, "Other religions are allowed to show their beliefs by wearing bracelets or turbans, so why can I not wear a cross to show my devotion to God?"

Sir Reg Empey, Dr. Esmond Birnie, Greg CarlinDr. Esmond Birnie, Spokesman on Family and Children Issues for the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party of Ireland addressed the recent controversy saying, "The banning of crucifixes is discriminatory and unacceptable."  Birnie asserted that the Department of Education in England (DfES) should not insult Christian beliefs by equating their religious symbols with petty dress-code violations.   

  Gregory Carlin, a child’s rights lobbyist in Northern Ireland told that the purported "health and safety concerns" over wearing a crucifix on a chain were "fraudulent".  Said Carlin, "In terms of dangerous items, research has shown that a crucifix on a chain is far less problematic than items such as shoelaces and neckties.  Shoelaces and neckties are responsible for hundreds of accidents in schools each year.  I haven’t found any recorded accidents with crucifix necklaces.  Yet the schools want to ban crucifixes but not neckties or shoelaces."

  Birnie also admitted that he found the "health and safety" excuse offered by school officials "very difficult to accept" and, instead, attributed their actions to the fact that "it is becoming very fashionable to target Christians."  

  Birnie encouraged school officials to focus on their ultimate purpose of educating students rather than engaging in politically correct squabbles saying, "The staff and governors of schools should focus more closely on improving exam results and spend less time making Christian pupils feel uncomfortable or persecuted."

  Carlin called the school’s suggestion to wear a crucifix lapel pin just "rubbing salt into the wounds".  A crucifix worn around the neck has been a long-standing Christian tradition and a crucifix lapel pin would be much harder to come by. 

  Samantha and her family have vowed to continue fighting for her right to wear the crucifix around her neck even if means expulsion or a lawsuit.

  As previously reported by, England has been embroiled in similar controversies over the past few years.  In 2005, a student was similarly forbidden to wear her crucifix around her neck during school despite other religious groups being able to portray their religious symbols.  Earlier this year, public outcry forced British Airways to alter their policy after a Christian employ was threatened with termination for wearing a crucifix with her uniform.  

  To express concern over Robert Napier’s School policies contact:
  [email protected]

Read Related Coverage:

  Sikh Minister Supports Right of UK School Girl to Wear Crucifix to School

  Sikh Sacred Band OK but Crucifix No Way says UK School

  British Airways Backs Down on Cross Ban After International Outrage

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