Humanist speaks out as Christians urged to wear cross

Ian Abbott Mr Abbott said calling the cardinal "barmy" was just "a bit of blunt banter"

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Lancashire's secularists are being urged to wear a "Happy Human" badge at work in direct reply to Christians who want to wear a cross.

Ian Abbott, leader of the county's Humanists, acknowledged the move could lead to divisions in the workplace.

The move is in response to Britain's leading Catholic, Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

He urged worshippers to "wear proudly a symbol of the cross of Christ" each day of their lives.

Cardinal O'Brien also expressed his concern at "the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly Christianity, which is taking place in some quarters".

Now, in a blog titled "What's Sauce for the Goose", the leader of Lancashire Secular Humanists has pledged to wear his "Happy Human" and "Atheist A" badges in response to what Mr Abbot refers to as "barmy Cardinal Keith O'Brien's latest ploy".

Mr Abbott, who is from Knott End, said: "Countless examples of disruption and dispute could be cited to demonstrate why large employers - such as the civil service - specifically prohibit exhibitions of personal faith in the workplace because it is a no brainer."

'Blunt banter'

Two workers, Shirley Chaplin, from Exeter, and Nadia Eweida, from Twickenham, are currently asking the European Court of Human Rights to rule that they have the right to wear a cross at work.

In 2010, an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled against that claim because Christians "generally" do not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.

Speaking to BBC Radio Lancashire, Mr Abbott said calling the cardinal "barmy" was just "a bit of blunt banter to get people to read further".

"The cardinal was being mischievous by trying to persuade everybody who is of the Christian faith to proudly wear a symbol of their faith on their clothing in every day of their lives," he added.

"That is clearly divisive. It is going to get people who are not of the faith to say that they will wear what they want to wear and that could easily escalate to being offensive."

Despite those worries, Mr Abbott has directed his members to where they can acquire the badges he now wears.

He also has a plan for those who take exception to his secularist adornments: "If challenged, I will refer objectors to the tartan Cardinal's office," he said.

Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.

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