Christian staff are routinely being unfairly discriminated against in the workplace, a group of senior bishops has said.

Seven Church of England bishops have published a letter claiming Christian beliefs are being disrespected and sidelined by employers, while other faiths are treated more sensitively.

They cited occasions where staff were banned from openly wearing crucifixes. They highlighted the case of Shirley Chaplin, an NHS nurse who was removed from front-line duties after she refused to stop wearing her cross when working on hospital wards.

They described the incident as “yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian community are being treated with disrespect”.

In the letter to the Sunday Telegraph, the church leaders, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, called on the main political parties to address the issue at the forthcoming general election.

The letter read: “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.”

The bishops added: “Any policy that regards the cross as ‘just an item of jewellery’ is deeply disturbing and it is distressing that this view can ever be taken.”

In February, British Airways worker Nadia Eweida lost an appeal against a ban on visibly wearing a cross while working at Heathrow. A previous employment tribunal ruling found that BA was not guilty of religious discrimination in banning her cross, after the company said its policy was to conceal such jewellery under uniforms.

Employee Engagement Summit 2010