(Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville)
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has stated that Christians wearing crosses has little significance and that the cross is largely a decorative symbol these days.
His comments come in light of the current European Court debate that argues that Christians do not have the right to wear a cross as a visible manifestation of their faith, and those that do so at a workplace that prohibits them may face the risk of being fired. On the other hand, Muslim and Hindu adherents are allowed to wear religious clothing without fear of losing their jobs, the Telegraph reported.
The case is being debated by the European Court of Human Rights in which two British women are seeking to establish their right to display the cross at their workplaces, but the court is arguing that since wearing the cross is not a "required" part of Christianity, they should not be entitled to such a right.
The contention has largely angered Christians in England and abroad, but Williams, the head of the Anglican Communion, appears to have admitted that the cross is mostly a fashion choice and does not hold as much significance for Christians as other religious items do for people of other faiths.
"I believe that during Lent one of the things we all have to face is to look at ourselves and ask how far we are involved in the religion factory," Williams said at a church service in Rome, where he met with Pope Benedict XVI over the weekend. "And the cross itself has become a religious decoration."
He also compared it to the biblical account of Jesus driving money changers from the temple in Jerusalem, where the temple had become a "religion factory" rather than a place of worship.
The archbishop's remarks have been deemed as "unhelpful" by Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Center, which is supporting part of the European Court claim.
Williams and her legal team are working with the two women who are claim that the government is setting the bar too high and that "manifesting" religion includes doing things that are not a "requirement of the faith," and that they are therefore protected by human rights.
Nadia Eweida was suspended from British Airways in 2006 after she refused to remove her cross necklace. Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, was also disciplined after refusing to cover her cross necklace.
The team insists that Christians are given less protection than members of other religions who have been granted special status for garments or symbols such as the Sikh turban and kara bracelet, or the Muslim hijab.