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Queen's Trinity Cross Order of Trinidad deemed unlawful - the Cross of Christ insulting to Muslims.
From The Times
An honour established by the Queen has been declared unlawful after Muslims and Hindus complained that its Christian name and cross insignia were offensive.
The Trinity Cross of the Order of Trinity was established by the Queen 40 years ago to recognise distinguished service and gallantry in the former colony of Trinidad and Tobago. It has been received by 62 people including the cricketers Garfield Sobers and Brian Lara, the novelist V. S. Naipaul and many of the islands’ leading politicians and diplomats.
The Privy Council in London has ruled that the decoration is unconstitutional because it discriminates against non-Christians.
The implications of the ruling on British decorations are being studied by lawyers at the Cabinet Office, which oversees the honours system. A spokesman said: “We have noted the judgment and are monitoring the situation.”
A parliamentary review of British honours has already recommended streamlining the system with new titles that have no reference to Christian saints or symbols.
The title and choice of insignia followed six years of consultation and research of national awards in other countries. Questions were raised, though, about the overtly Christian nature of the words “Trinity” and “Cross” and the use of a cross insignia, which led to some of those nominated refusing to accept the decoration.
As the Island of Trinidad was named after the Trinity that would seem to me to be an eminently appropriate title for a decoration for that island. However the concept of the Trinity does deeply unsettle Muslims while the cross has much the same effect as it does on demons in a horror film.
In my experience Hindus acknowledge the divine in such diversity that they accept our belief in it as yet one more facet of the supreme being. If I have misunderstood this I am sure our readers will set me right.
The law lords refused to make the order retrospective, meaning that the recipients will not be stripped of their honours.
The legal case had been brought by groups representing Trinidad and Tobago’s Muslim and Hindu communities, which account for about 30 per cent of the Caribbean islands’ population of 1.3 million.
The CIA handbook gives the figures as 57.6% all Christian denominations, 22.5% Hindu and 5.8% Muslim. I am willing for someone with personal knowledge of Trinidad to explain otherwise but my gut reaction is that it is not the Hindu part of the South Asian population pushing for this. The many Hindu Gurkhas who have been awarded the VC seem to have no trouble with the cross design.
The High Court of Trinidad and Tobago ruled in 2004 that the decoration discriminated against non-Christians but said that it did not have the power to invalidate the royal order.
The island’s Cabinet has already agreed that the name of its highest national award should be renamed the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and that the Order of the Trinity would become the Distinguished Society of Trinidad and Tobago. They also said that the decoration would be redesigned, with the cross replaced by a medal.
A review of the British honours system by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee in 2004 recommended reducing the number of decorations from twelve to four, with the new proposed titles having no reference to the Cross or Christian saints.
Last year Christine Grahame, an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament, described the George Medal, one of the highest civilian awards for bravery, as “clearly very Anglocentric” and unsuitable for Scots. She suggested replacing it with a nationalist award such as a “St Andrews Medal”. Which sounds very Scots to me. But I have a soft spot for St Andrew and his biblical credentials are undisputable. Perhaps a British born saint, Columba or Cuthbert.
The Times comments
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council has shown the flexibility that has preserved its members since the Norman Conquest. It has ruled that the Trinity Cross is illegal; but it has not made its ruling retrospective. So the holders of the Trinity Cross do not have to return their honours to have the crosses taken out. In any case the three sailing ships on the coat of arms of the islands represent the Trinity. And Trinidad was named after the Trinity by Columbus. The honour has already been renamed the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. So honour is satisfied in honourable compromise.
The islands are entitled to take a view on their own honours. But this decision should not set a precedent that the United Kingdom feels it needs to follow.