A Christian who was told by her bosses at British Airways to hide a small cross she wore around her neck has lost her case for religious discrimination at the Court of Appeal today.
Nadia Eweida, 58, was appealing against an earlier court ruling that decided BA had not broken the law by asking her to hide or remove the Christian symbol, even though it had allowed hijabs and turbans to be worn.
Today Lord Justice Sedley said that BA’s decision to ban necklaces with a cross was justified.
“This case has perhaps illustrated some of the problems which can arise when an individual asserts that a provision, criterion or 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,” he said.
“It is not unthinkable that a blanket ban may sometimes be the only solution.”
However, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, said: “The news that Nadia Eweida’s appeal has failed is a sad blow both to her personally, and the cause of religious liberties and freedoms.”
Lawyers from civil rights group Liberty represented Miss Eweida in court.
In a statement the group said that the appeal court had upheld the “startling” judgment of November 2008, which found that banning Miss Eweida from wearing a cross was not discriminatory because Christians “generally” do not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.
Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer, said: “This is a disappointing judgment that will do little to build public confidence in equality laws protecting everyone.”
Barrister Neil Addison, National Director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, also criticised the ruling.
He said the decision was “completely impossible to reconcile” with a High Court ruling in a Sikh case “where it was held that prohibiting a Sikh School girl from wearing a ‘Kara’ bracelet was religious discrimination.
“What, I ask myself, is the difference between a religious cross around the neck and a religious bracelet on the wrist?”
The row involving Miss Eweida and her employer first hit the headlines in 2006 and sparked a public backlash against British Airways.
The airline subsequently changed its uniform policy to allow the display of religious symbols.
But Miss Eweida has continued to pursue her employer in the courts, feeling that BA’s original insistence that she hide her cross was discriminatory.