2012 ends with a foretaste of 2013.
Celestina Mba worked for Brightwell children’s Home in London. When she began her employment it was agreed with her employers Merton Council that she would not work on Sundays because of her Christian faith. The Council changed the agreement and forced her to choose between her job and her faith.
Offers to work for less pay, to do extra shifts or to work on Saturdays in lieu were all rejected by the Council. As an article of faith for them Mrs Mba had to work on Sundays. As far as the Council was concerned any accommodation on account of Mrs Mba’s faith was totally out of the question.
After many months trailing through the courts Mrs Mba’s claim for constructive dismissal was rejected by the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal held that Sunday observance was not a ‘core component’ of the Christian faith.
The saddest thing about this ruling is that the court merely observed the prevailing practice of Christians in the UK . It saw quite clearly that keeping one of the Ten Commandments is not a core component of the faith of many Christians. If the bulk of those who consider themselves Christians see Sabbath observance as an optional extra how can we ask for protection of those faithful Christians who wish to observe the Sabbath?
We have to ask ourselves how much of the pressure Christians encounter is down to the fact that the church as a whole does not take seriously the teaching and traditions of the faith? People like Mrs Mba are left high and dry when they wish to hold to the faith because other Christians choose a faith that fits their convenience.
The significant thing about this ruling is that yet another council has chosen confrontation with a Christian over a matter of belief in a way in which they would never dream of doing with adherents of other faiths. The social work departments of councils in particular seem determined to stamp down on any outward observance of Christianity. Even something as small as a Palm Sunday cross on a van’s dashboard has been seen as a punishable offence by a publicly funded housing department. What is it with the ‘caring professions’ and their bureaucrats?
The unsettling thing about this ruling is that a court has taken it upon himself to define what is a core belief of the Christian faith. Progressives constantly bleat about the separation of Church and state; if they wish to hold to this principle they should remember that it cuts both ways. A secular court has the right to observe the prevailing practice of Christians, however, no secular judge, court or tribunal has the right to define the core components of the Christian faith. To attempt to do so is to claim jurisdiction which is not theirs.
The dangerous thing about this ruling is that it pushes Christians towards extremism. In the recent past courts have acted to protect the Kara bracelet worn by Sikhs, the wearing of the Hijab and a Muslim’s right to fast. At the same time courts have refused to grant protection to the Cross, the Christian Sunday, and those who would demure against providing abortions or presiding at civil partnerships. It would seem that courts in Great Britain are responsive to pressure from religious minorities, and in the case of Muslims to threats of public disturbance. Is this the road down which they really want to push Christians?
In the coming year we can be sure that we will see continued attacks on the practice of Christianity. We will be told we can believe what we want but when it comes to practice we must conform to progressive ideology. Every time a Celestine Mba , a Colin Atkinson, a Hannah Adewole, a Nadia Eweida or a Gary McFalane is picked on and disadvantaged because of their practice of the faith we can know that it is in part because the rest of us keep silent.