A Christian British Airways employee who was asked to conceal her cross at work has launched a legal challenge in the Court of Appeal.
Nadia Eweida is trying to overturn a previous ruling which said BA’s actions did not constitute religious discrimination.
The dispute arose after Miss Eweida, a customer service employee, was asked to conceal the cross necklace she was wearing even though staff of other faiths were allowed to display their religious symbols.
When Miss Eweida refused she was suspended from work in September 2006.
BA claimed that the silver cross, which is no bigger than a five pence coin, was contrary to the company’s uniform policy.
Miss Eweida was represented in court yesterday by Karon Monaghan QC, who said that the BA employee “wished at the material times to wear a small, plain, silver cross visibly as a manifestation of her beliefs and personal expression of her faith.”
She added that BA “permitted adherents of other religious faiths to express their beliefs through certain visible symbols, such as the Sikh bracelet, the Jewish skull cap and the Muslim hijab.”
However, British Airways maintains that wearing the cross was not something required by Miss Eweida’s Christian faith, but something which she chose to do.
Ingrid Simler, British Airways’ QC told the appeal court: “Ms Eweida reflects her religious belief in a way similar to the way people wear symbols for CND or gay rights – that it reflects their core beliefs but it has nothing to do with religion.”
Following a public outcry in 2006 the airline changed its uniform policy and Miss Eweida returned to work in February 2007.
Miss Eweida, who is being backed by the human rights group Liberty, is claiming £120,000 in damages and lost wages.
Her case attracted support from many prominent figures including Tony Blair, the Archbishop of Canterbury and former Home Secretary John Reid.
Speaking outside the court Dr Reid said: “It sends a signal that Christians don’t enjoy the same protections under the law as those from other religions whose dress requirements are accommodated in the workplace.”
A new Christian Institute report has revealed the extent to which Christians are being marginalised by a raft of equality and diversity laws which leave them the first to be punished and the last to be protected.
The report, called “Marginalising Christians”, catalogues numerous cases of Christians being sidelined by public bodies, popular media and by employers.