Christmas Must Not Be Suppressed by Employers Afraid of Offending Muslims: UK Equality Commission

A choir sings Christmas carols outside number 10 Downing Street before a reception with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in London on December 6, 2011.
A choir sings Christmas carols outside number 10 Downing Street before a reception with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in London on December 6, 2011. | (Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Winning)

The chair of the U.K.'s Equalities and Human Right Commission has warned employers not to suppress Christmas celebrations out of fear of offending people of other faiths.

"Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and it shouldn't be suppressed through fear of offending," said David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, according to The Sunday Times.

"Lots of employers have now become really worried about doing anything discriminatory regarding their Muslim or Jewish staff," he added.

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Isaac warned that some employers have been guilty of "extreme and disproportionate behaviour" that "could ... produce some sort of resentment about special treatment."

The Independent noted that reports in recent years have told of bosses renaming "Christmas" to "winter holidays" in an effort to be more inclusive, and have been hesitant when it comes to sending Christmas cards.

"It is OK to hold a party and to send Christmas cards. Most Muslims and Jews that I know adhere to their own religious beliefs of course, but to some extent acknowledge that Christmas happens and to some extent, with a small 'c,' celebrate it. This is people's lived experience and we need to reflect it," the EHRC chair explained.

Others, such as Dame Louise Casey, who leads the government's efforts in opportunity and integration, have also warned that policies that undermine Christmas are a threat to community cohesion.

"I have become convinced that it is only the upholding of our core British laws, cultures, values and traditions that will offer us the route map through the different and complex challenge of creating a cohesive society," Casey said.

She revealed that she spoke with a manager of a community center who decided to call his Christmas tree a "festive tree" in order to avoid offending others.

"What offense did he think he was causing? What did we ever think would be offensive about celebrating Christmas with a tree?" she asked.

Some Christian conservative groups had protested Isaac's appointment to the role earlier this year, however, given that he previously served as chairman of the gay and lesbian activist group Stonewall.

The Telegraph reported that Christian Concern was among the groups that urged members of Parliament to veto Isaac's appointment, arguing that he would be biased against Christians.

The organization argued that Britain has seen "the rights of those who identify as homosexual being consistently privileged over the rights of Christians, particularly with regards to historic views on marriage and sexual ethics."

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