This week the Daily Mail newspaper has run a campaign in support of Colin Atkinson who was under persecution by his employer, Wakefield District Housing, for doing what many of their non-Christian employees do as a matter of course --- displaying a symbol of his faith in his work vehicle. In this instance it was a small palm cross which he had kept on display in his van for a period of about eighteen months.
Despite its protestations to the contrary, there is no doubt at all that the whole issue was motivated by an anti-Christian attitude, and Mr Atkinson happened to be the person in the firing-line. I support this statement by the fact that other employees of different faiths were allowed to continue displaying symbols of their faith in their vehicles without challenge. In fact WDH claims that it has an inclusive policy towards its employees, and that the policy allows employees to display religious symbols at work. As Mr Atkinson faced a disciplinary hearing and was informed that he faced the prospect of being dismissed from his job for an infringement of the Company rules, this policy was obviously interpreted by them to be inclusive for every employee other than Christian employees. After all, employees are allowed to wear burkas if they wish, and it is known that at least one employee has a verse from the Q'ran in the car she uses for work. Such was the anti-Christian feeling towards Colin Atkinson that he was thrown out of his workplace on Monday for making his eighteen month ordeal known publicly, the claim being that he had violated his contract.
Fellow employees of other faiths, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, all stood up in favour of Mr Atkinson against the Company. The Company fail to explain why during the course of the ordeal they moved the goal-posts regarding their 'inclusive' policy, when they changed the policy last Christmas Eve in order to ban all personal effects from vehicles. It's interesting to not that this change of policy was only directed at Mr Atkinson. The same company allows another employee, Environmental Manager Denis Doody, to display a poster of the murderous communist and terrorist Che Guevara in his office, although this poster may cause great offence to many who are subjected to its presence.
There are those who see the climb-down by WDH as a victory for common sense, but the reality is that they have bowed to public pressure because, no matter what they might think privately, they are embarrassed as a Company by the adverse publicity that their actions have caused.
Both WDH and Mr Atkinson, together with his union, Unite, have now put forward suggestions to provide an answer that will allow Mr Atkinson to continue to display the palm cross in his van, and agreement to the preferred plan is expected to be confirmed in the immediate future, meaning that Mr Atkinson can return to work next Tuesday.
It's good that an agreement appears to have been reached over this issue, but that does not detract from the fact that it should never have been an issue in the first place.