- Accrington Crematorium's cross removed to avoid upsetting guests
- Council had become concerned that secular groups could be offended
- Despite being centrepiece for half a century, now needs to be requested
- Bishop joins councillors in slamming decision, which they say is the 'creeping madness of political correctness undermining Christian values'
A Christian cross has been removed from a crematorium so as to avoid offending followers of different religions.
Council bosses opted to take down Accrington Crematorium's large wooden cross - the symbol of Christianity - after growing concern about how secular groups responded to it.
It will now only be put up for individual services on request, after being the centrepiece of the crematorium for half a century.
Council bosses opted to take down Accrington Crematorium's large wooden cross (pictured, left) - the centrepiece of its altar for half a century - after growing concerned by how secular groups responded to it
Hyndburn Tory group leader Peter Britcliffe (pictured yesterday outside the crematorium) said he was alarmed at its removal, adding that it was 'another example of the creeping madness of political correctness undermining the traditional Christian values of our society'
Since 1956, the religious symbol has been a permanent fixture at the crematorium (pictured), only removed if service organisers made such a request
The decision has outraged many in the area, including the Anglican Bishop of Burnley, Philip North.
He said: 'This approach at Accrington Crematorium is symptomatic of actions often taken by secular authorities to strip away the outward signs of faith around us, but not for reasons the majority support.
'At the census a majority of people in Lancashire identified as Christian and many arriving at the crematorium will want, and indeed expect, the cross to be there to offer them comfort.
'Will the crematorium management proactively inform everyone they have the option to put the cross back up?
'If it's a funeral of someone of another faith or none, remove the cross by all means, but have it in place for the majority who will still expect to see it.
'I can't imagine many people would ever ask for the cross to be removed as it's a fairly traditional town.
'What I know is the power of symbol. The cross is a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death. People living with grief need that kind of symbol. The rituals around death are incredibly important.
The decision has outraged many in the area, including the Anglican Bishop of Burnley, Philip North (pictured), saying it will upset many looking to the cross for comfort at a time of sadness
'There are lots of people who say they are Christians but don't go to church, and the cross is even important to them.
And many people wear a cross even if they don't attend church. It's a symbol of love.'
Hyndburn Tory group leader Peter Britcliffe said he was alarmed at its removal.
Councillor Britcliffe said: 'This is another example of the creeping madness of political correctness undermining the traditional Christian values of our society in East Lancashire.
'The correct default position is for the cross to be in the chapel unless those organising a funeral ask for it to be taken down.'
Since 1956, the religious symbol has been a permanent fixture at the crematorium, only removed if service organisers made such a request.
Following a £20,000 upgrade earlier this year, Hyndburn Council decided the cross should be removed and only restored at the request of a family wanting a Christian farewell for their loved one.
Hyndburn cemeteries boss Ken Moss said it reflected the growing number of humanist and non-religious funerals held at the Burnley Road venue.
Nearby councils in Blackburn, Burnley and Pendle all keep the cross in place at their funeral chapels unless asked to remove it by service organisers.
Councillor Moss said: 'The large wooden cross was taken down during the recent refurbishment of the crematorium chapel.
'General guidance for crematoria is the building should be non-denominational so that it has the flexibility to make all families welcome whatever their beliefs.
'Most people with religious beliefs have a church service first and then go to the crematorium for the committal.
At Accrington Crematorium approximately 40 per cent of families state they have no religion and humanist services are very common now.
'To cater for those families with religious beliefs the crematorium has a cross and crucifix available, which can be put up for services and taken down when not needed.
'Whilst this is a change at Accrington Crematorium, it is usual industry practice.'
Councillor Britcliffe added: 'I am shocked by this decision, which is the wrong way round.
Hyndburn cemeteries boss Ken Moss (pictured) said removing the cross reflected the growing number of humanist and non-religious funerals held at the Burnley Road venue
'I am no tub-thumping evangelical Christian but this cross has been in place at the building since 1956.'
Area Dean of Accrington, Reverend John Holland, said: 'I held a service in there on Friday without the cross. The wall is very blank and bare now.
'I am not aware at all that anybody has ever had a problem with the cross. You don't have to look at it if you don't want to.
'I've arranged to meet the councillor involved on 21st October and I plan to publicise the meeting. We are also considering starting an online petition about it as feeling is so high in the local community.'
British Humanist Association chief executive Andrew Copson believes the right decision has been made.
He said: 'It is no longer the case that most people are Christian in our country.
'On the grounds that it is right to treat everyone with equal respect, a policy that allows people to choose the cross rather than have it assumed as a default is good for everyone, religious or non-religious.'
Nearby Blackburn with Darwen Council has a cross fixed to the wall of its Pleasington crematorium chapel, which can be removed for non-religious services.
Burnley's Council crematorium has a large wooden cross fixed to the chapel wall which can be covered by a cloth if requested.
Pendle Council's Colne and Nelson equivalents have freestanding crosses which can be turned round on request while Rossendale's chapels in Haslingden and Rawtenstall keep similar freestanding symbols removed on request.
Its Whitworth chapel has a wall-mounted cross which is covered on request.