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British Airways Worker Loses Religious Discrimination Case

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  • Britain Cross Ban
    (Photo: AP Photo / Sang Tan)
    Christian British Airways check-in employee Nadia Eweida, shows her Christian cross to the media, as she arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice to fight a ruling that she was not a victim of religious discrimination by British Airways, London, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. The 58-year-old airport check-in clerk was sent home by BA after she refused to comply with a ban on employees wearing visible religious symbols in late 2006.
By Aaron J. Leichman, Christian Post Reporter
February 13, 2010|10:52 am

A British Airways check-in worker who refused to hide her cross necklace at work has lost her case against the airline in London's Court of Appeals but will likely take it up to the Supreme Court.

The Appeals Court on Friday upheld the November 2008 judgment of an employment tribunal, which found that banning Nadia Eweida from wearing a cross was not discriminatory because Christians “generally” do not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.

Furthermore, the court's judge ruled, however much British Airways’ ban conflicted with individuals' religious beliefs, the airline was justified in imposing it.

The case reflects "problems which can arise when an individual asserts that a ... practice adopted by an employer conflicts with beliefs which they hold, but which may not only not be shared but may be opposed by others in the workforce,” the judge stated, according to Agence-France Presse.

"It is not unthinkable that a blanket ban may sometimes be the only fair solution," he added.

Although British Airways has since changed its uniform policy to allow for the open wearing of all religious symbols, including crosses, Eweida took the airline to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, claiming the airline had discriminated against Christians by not allowing them to openly wear symbols of their faith while Muslim and Hindu employees were permitted to wear headscarves and turbans.

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Eweida wanted British Airways to acknowledge the old policy amounted to religious discrimination, and was seeking 120,000 pounds (nearly $200,000) in damages and lost wages for the roughly three months she was kept off the job.

Following Friday’s ruling, Dr. Vincent Cable, Eweida’s Member of Parliament and the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, vowed to “fight on” and take “this important issue of principle and freedom of expression” to the Supreme Court.

Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for the London-based human rights group Liberty, added: “This is a disappointing judgment that will do little to build public confidence in equality laws protecting everyone.

“But this is just the sort of case that a Supreme Court is for and we have every hope that the highest court in the land will put Britain's long tradition of religious tolerance into modern legal practice,” said Ferguson, who represented Eweida.

According to Liberty, Eweida currently has support from religious leaders, politicians of all parties and the Transport and General Workers Union.

Notably, it was only after a public backlash and widespread criticism from politicians and church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, that British Airways changed its uniform policy to allow crosses on chains to be worn openly.

Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury, said Friday that Eweida’s courage and endurance since 2006 “have been an inspiration to so many of us.”

 

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