Den britiske elektrikeren Colin Atkinson er blitt innkalt til disiplinærhøring og trues med avskjed fordi han nekter å fjerne et lite kors fra dashbordet i firmabilen sin. Arbeidsgiveren, den statsstøttede boligorganisasjonen Wakefield and District Housing (WDH), krever korset fjernet fordi det angivelig kan fornærme folk eller antyde at organisasjonen er kristen, noe ledelsen mener er et brudd på organisasjonens mangfolds- og inkluderingspolitikk.

Samtidig tillater organisasjonen Atkinsons sjef å ha en plakat med drapsmannen Che Guevara og marxistiske slagord fullt synlig for både ansatte og publikum, og sier seg villige til å la ansatte bruke det ansiktstildekkende muslimske plagget niqab/burka dersom det ikke er til hinder for vedkommendes arbeidsoppgaver.

WDHs likeverd- og mangfoldsjef, Jayne O`Connell, forklarer at Atkinson ble bedt om å fjerne korset fordi organisasjonen har inntatt et nøytralt standpunkt og at deres offiselle holdning er at det er nødvendig å være respektfulle overfor alle synspunkter og religioner. Hun opplyser om at det er tillatt for ansatte å vise sin personlige overbevisning, men at organisasjonen forutsetter at det blir gjort med diskresjon. I følge O`Connell er niqab/burka å regne for en diskret demonstrasjon av bærerens personlige tro, og derfor kan tillates som arbeidsanstrekk under organisasjonens nøytralitetslinje:

Eksempel på indiskret og ekskluderende religiøst symbol:

Eksempel på diskret og inkluderende religiøst symbol:

Atkinson har arbeidet for WDH i femten år og har hatt korset på dashbordet like lenge uten at det har forårsaket klager.

But his bosses at publicly funded in West Yorkshire – the fifth-biggest housing organisation in England – have demanded he remove the cross on the grounds it may offend people or suggest the organisation is Christian. Mr Atkinson’s union representative said he faces a full disciplinary hearing next month for gross misconduct, which could result in dismissal.

The association strongly promotes ‘inclusive’ policies and allows employees to wear religious symbols at work.

It has provided stalls at gay pride events, held ‘diversity days’ for travellers, and hosted a gender reassignment event entitled A World That Includes Transpeople.

Mr Atkinson, who has an unblemished work record, said he had not been shown similar respect.

‘The past few months have been unbelievable, a nightmare,’ he said.

‘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. It is political correctness taken to the extreme.’

But he added: ‘I have never been so full of resolve. I am determined to stand up for my rights. If they sack me, so be it. But I am standing up for my faith.’

Saken er bare en av mange lignende tilfeller som involverer kristne som hevder at deres frihet har blitt innskrenket som følge av den tidligere Labour-regjeringens omstridte Likhetslov.

Kritikere anklager boligorganisasjonen for å utvise en «bemerkelsesverdig intoleranse» på en tid da millioner av kristne feirer Palmesøndag.

Despite the company’s treatment of Mr Atkinson, the boss of the depot where he works in Castleford has been allowed to adorn his office with a poster of the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara.

Denis Doody, who is WDH’s environmental manager, also has a whiteboard on which are written several quotations by the Marxist guerrilla leader, who was a key figure in the Cuban revolution in the Fifties.

Colleagues said staff and even members of the public who were visiting the depot would be able to see the poster and whiteboard through his office window.

I 2009 ble Atkinson bedt om fjerne korset fra bilen, da ledelsen mente at det kunne føre til at noen ville oppfatte organisasjonen som kristen:

Over the following weeks, Mr Atkinson was subjected to further requests from several different managers, but he demanded to speak to more senior bosses.

He said: ‘They would take me to one side and say I had to get rid of it. For weeks I didn’t know where all this was coming from.

‘Then a colleague who had overheard a conversation tipped me off that there had been an anonymous letter complaining about misuse of the van and mentioning the cross. It was a malicious letter full of scurrilous lies and the company never pursued the claims. But it used the letter to raise the issue of the cross.

‘I felt I was being badgered, so I complained that I was being harassed because of my faith.’

Boligorganisjonen er svært opptatt av mangfold, og har arrangert en rekke «mangfoldsdager» for ansatte og leietagere. Disse dagene har blitt ledet av bla grupper som Kvinner i bygg- og anleggsbransjen, Organisasjonen for mental helse, Leeds` organisasjon for sigøynere og travellers og av imamen ved Wakefields moskè.

I WDH årlige undersøkelse i 2010 anser for øvrig over halvparten – 51 prosent – av organisasjonens leietagere seg som kristne, mens bare en halv prosent beskriver seg selv som muslimer. Av de øvrige regner 17 prosent seg som ikke-troende, 30 prosent lot være å svare og resten kategoriserte seg selv som «spirituelle» eller «andre».

In a series of meetings last year, Mr Atkinson and his Unite union representative, Terry Cunliffe, argued that there was nothing in the rules explicitly prohibiting the cross, which had been accepted for years.

Transcripts of meetings show they strongly disputed the company’s claim that the cross could offend someone, or that anyone who saw it in the van – one of the company’s 280 vehicles – would conclude that the association was Christian.

Mr Cunliffe said at one meeting: ‘What if there were political or religious documents on the dashboard? Would it look like they were WDH’s? A cross on the side of a building would reflect on WDH. A cross displayed in the front of a vehicle would be, in my opinion, a reflection of the person driving.’

But the company’s equality and diversity manager, Jayne O’Connell, who was recruited from HBoS bank in 2009, replied: ‘WDH has a stance of neutrality. We now have different faiths, new emerging cultures. We have to be respectful of all views and beliefs.’

At another meeting, Ms O’Connell said Mr Atkinson could express his faith but ‘it is quite clear it cannot be associated with WDH and displaying the cross gives the impression that WDH is a Christian organisation’.

She said staff could demonstrate their personal beliefs ‘discreetly’, even adding that the company could provide extra material in its official corporate colours ‘for employees who wish to wear a different style of uniform’.

Pressed by Mr Cunliffe on whether a Muslim woman who wore a burka at work would be considered discreet, she said: ‘If they could do their job effectively, then yes.’

Asked whether she would think a burka in WDH corporate colours was discreet, Ms O’Connell replied: ‘Yes, it would be.’

Daily Mail: Persecuted for his cross: Electrician told he faces the sack for Christian symbol on his van dashboard

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