Bishops claim bias against Christians

Senior bishops today claimed Christians in Britain are being "treated with disrespect" while followers of other faiths are dealt with more sensitively.

The six bishops and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said the "apparent discrimination" against churchgoers was "unacceptable in a civilised society".

In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, the bishops point to the case of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards for wearing a necklace with a cross.

They also claim Christian beliefs on issues such as marriage and homosexuality were brushed aside by new legislation.

A group of 640 head teachers, school governors and faith leaders signed a separate letter to the newspaper calling for legislation that will see children as young as seven taught about sex and relationships to be axed.

In their letter, the Bishops said: "We are deeply concerned at the apparent discrimination shown against Christians and we call on the Government to remedy this serious development.

"In a number of cases, Christian beliefs on marriage, conscience and worship are simply not being upheld.

"There have been numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country."

Mrs Chaplin's case for discrimination on religious grounds will begin in her home city of Exeter tomorrow.

The bishops said it was "yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian community are being treated with disrespect".

They added: "To be asked by an employer to remove or 'hide' the cross is asking the Christian to hide their faith."

In addition to Lord Carey, the letter was signed by the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester; the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester; the Rt Rev Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester; the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford; the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn; and the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield.