September 21, 2014

Russian Church: British Authorities Adopt Double Standard on Public Symbols

Source: Russian Orthodox Church Department for External Affairs

Moscow, March 13 – People in the Russian Orthodox Church are amazed at the loyalty that the British authorities, who have forbidden wearing crosses at work, have shown towards other religious and non-religious symbols.

‘This decision of the British authorities cannot but give rise to anxiety, especially given the existence of other tendencies aimed at liberation of human instincts in the European society today. Why then is the public demonstration of one’s involvement in the gay culture considered a norm whereas the wearing of a cross is not? Indeed, there is a diversity of symbols connected with the gay culture, but just try to sack a person who openly demonstrates his sexual orientation. Clearly he will make a row and will certainly manage to be reinstated. And what is the danger of old Christian symbols? Who are insulted by them?’ the chairman of the Synodal Information Department Vladimir Legoida stated on Tuesday. The attitude to the Sikhs is another example of the double standards exercised by the British government. He said that the Sikhs, even those who serve in the London police, are officially permitted to wear the turban, one of the symbols of Sikhism.

He believes the decision of the British authorities to be ‘a very disturbing symbol’. If this signal, Mr Legoida said, means that it is impossible for one to show publicly one’s belonging to Christianity, ‘who then can guarantee that tomorrow the authorities will not tell you to put the notice saying ‘such-and-such church’ but to take away the crosses and that not only from the cupolas but also whatever represents the cross’. This attitude is difficult to assess as any other than a manifestation of Christinophobia, the cases of which are becoming ever more frequent in today’s world.

In addition, this situation, Mr Legoida believes, ‘vividly points to Europe’s abandonment of her fundamental identity’.

‘If we speak of the freedom of conscience, then why do we encounter with restrictions? If the non-aggressive demonstration of one’s religious affiliation is impossible in a civilized society, then the question arises about the nature of this society. It turns out that all the talk about tolerance and calls to it become meaningless words since we are unable to live in good-neighbourly relations, without losing our identity?’ Mr Legoida noted.

In his opinion, the problem boils down to ‘the imposition of an idea that religion is solely a private affair of each’.

‘I think it is wrong because never in history religion has been only a private affair of a person. But being certainly a very private affair, it has always had a public and social dimension. Otherwise we make a person to leave his faith behind in the church or in the narrow family circle and do not allow him to motivate his public actions by his faith. But it is absurd’, he believes.

Comments

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    The English Observer says:

    I do not see what this has to do with the Moscow Patriarchate. They have no business involving themselves in a matter still before the Courts in Britain.

    Also, the widely-voiced reports from Father Mikhail Dudko about a parishioner in London being forbidden to wear a cross at work and choosing to resign are vague on detail. What sort of work was the parishioner doing? Was she trying to wear a visible cross? Has she taken legal advice?

    In fact there is no law in Britain against wearing a cross at work; the argument is whether a cross may be worn visibly if the employer objects. I am not aware of any canonical requirement for an Orthodox Christian to wear a cross at all. That seems to be the essence of the legal issue.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    NO, it is not just a legal issue, it is an issue of actual religious freedom. The freedom to practice one’s belief without unneccesary restrictions. It is also a matter of what we in the US would call equal protection under the law. Of course these days that means that all are equally prohibited, but it used to mean that the law is applied without prejudice based on class. Never actually happened of course, but the concept, the ideal helped promote a civil society in ways that class consciousness simply does not.

    As to why Moscow is involved, maybe the remember the old prohibitions of the Soviet time and don’t wish them repeated.

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    J.J. Kotalik says:

    What does it have to do with the Patriarchate of Moscow? Well, the MP has MANY parishes – made up of both immigrant and converts – in the UK; I don’t have the numbers would I would not be surprised if the MP had the most parishes in the UK. As such, the MP has a duty to protect its flock living in the UK. Furthermore, one of the affected individuals is a parishioner at the MP’s Cathedral in London – which is a beautiful place and a wonder to attend – and so this duty is no longer an abstract concept; there are very real wolves now trying to devour the MP’s flock and it would be damning if they did not stand up to support this woman.

    As to the situation with this woman, I hear that she is a nurse and did not even have her cross visible, as she wore it under her work clothing. When her employers told her that it could still fall out if on a chain, she offered to duck tape it to her skin; they however told her this was still not acceptable. So, she chose to resign rather than take off her cross, which IS VERY REQUIRED in the Russian tradition. There is no canonical requirement, no, but one should wear their baptismal cross every day, as it is that cross which we took on at baptism and its very real presence helps to remind us of our duty as a Christian. Now, I know some priests who insist it be worn under one’s shirt, lest it become a show, and this is what I do, but every Russian priest I have ever met insists on how necessary this is. Let us not forgot that to take off one’s cross was how, in during the Bolshevik revolution, one indicated that they had apostatized from the Church and that holy men and women were martyred from refusing to take theirs off. Now, if our brothers and sisters can face death for the sake of not taking off that which makes us a Christian – our cross – then we can face losing our jobs.

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