Christian under fire for displaying cross in company's van

Colin Atkinson has displayed a small palm cross in his van for the entire 15 years he has worked for Wakefield District Housing (WDH).

The Christian Legal Centre said he has come under "huge pressure" to remove the cross from his van following a complaint from a WDH tenant, who said it might offend people of other faiths.

Mr Atkinson has refused to remove the cross and is now being investigated for his failure to comply.

The CLC said the not-for-profit is concerned that, as a neutral organisation, allowing a cross to be displayed in the van amounts to favouring Christianity and could cause offense, despite WDH employees of other faiths being allowed to wear headdresses, beards and turbans.

Mr Atkinson is being represented by human rights barrister Paul Diamond.

He is to be informed as to whether he will face disciplinary action shortly.

Mr Atkinson said he was "really shocked and surprised" by the procedure against him.

"I have always had that cross in my van. It’s a symbol of my personal faith. It’s not offensive. It’s in a discrete place and I am acting lawfully,” he said.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the investigation "smacks of something deeply illiberal and remarkably intolerant".

"Freedom of expression now needs to be robustly defended," she said.

"When a man can't display a palm cross in his van in a historically Christian country, it should give people serious pause for thought. Is this the kind of society that the British public want to live in?

"The cross is a profound symbol of God's love for all of us. We should not be embarrassed about it, and the historic Christian character of this nation should be retained for the benefit of all."