15 March 2012

Should We Be Cross?

The  European Union Court on Human Rights is considering two cases of British Christian women who were prohibited from wearing crosses while at work. The British government is arguing that since the women in question had the right to quit their job and move elsewhere that  it is not a violation of their human rights. 

L. Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams
R. Catholic Pope Benedict XVI          
Adding to this argument, Church of England Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams postulated that for many people wearing a cross is just “religious decoration” and not an essential part of Christianity.  While speaking at a church in Rome where Williams was meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Canterbury noted that the cross had been stripped of its meaning as part of the tendency to manufacture religion.

A couple of years ago, the French outlawed wearing the burka in public.  Although French Prime Minister Sarkozy had the gaul (sic) to claim that the burka was not welcomed in France, the law was carefully crafted so as not to mention women, veils, burkas or veils.  The public policy rationale was that malfeasors could obscure their identities by covering their faces.  The French courts ruled this law constitutional. 

In the British cases, individual identities are not obscured. The question is to whether people have the right to wear personal effects which may indicate their religious identity. If wearing the cross as jewelry has lost its religious meaning, then what is the public policy rationale for banning it?

 Despite British Prime Minister David Cameron’s strong skepticism on the benefits of multi-culturalism, his government has rejected a burka ban as it is “Un-British” even though polling indicates that  2/3rds of Britons support banning the burka.  Since there is dispute amongst Islamic scholars as to whether the niqab is required for the practice of the Muslim faith or merely cultural (and political) expressions, does that mean that it too could be banned?  

C.- NY Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Concerns over the free exercise of religion are not confined to Europe.  The Obama Administration is trying to dictate how Christians can practice their faith regarding the HHS Contraception Mandate for Obamacare.  When the Obama Administration made overtures to meet with the Catholic bishops to work out the wrinkles, it turns out that expanding the narrow interpretation of the very narrow religious exemption was off the table.  In fact,  New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan related that the top Obama Administration liaison advised the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to listen to “enlightened voices” of accommodation,  such as liberal Jesuit America Magazine or a what one wag calls a Magesterium of Nuns which have a vested interest in keeping Catholics hospitals.  So now the Executive Branch is effectively trying to tell the American Catholic Church what they should believe and teach to the faithful. 

Should the faithful be cross with banning wearing the cross? Should the public appreciate these efforts as a public railing against phony religiosity, or as freedom of religion from the public square?  Perhaps it is an example of creeping dhimmitude where political correctness excoriates Christianity but effectively is Sharia compliant.

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