Christians Win Right To Wear Cross At Work, European Court Rules

Christian British Airways clerk Nadia Eweida

Europe's highest court concluded Tuesday that British Airways discriminated against a clerk for demanding that she remove her cross necklace. At the same time, the court ruled that a person's right to express their religion wasn't absolute -- particularly if it led to the discrimination of gays and lesbians.

British Airways suspended Nadia Eweida in 2006 when she refused to comply with the uniform code that banned visible religious jewelry. The airline ultimately changed its policy, and allowed Eweida to return to work five months later. But Eweida, now 60, took her case to the courts.

More: U.K. Christians Punished For Wearing Crosses At Work

A British employment tribunal, The Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court all rejected Eweida's claim, sparking a national debate in England over the persecution of Christians in public life. Critics pointed out that British Airways allowed employees to wear religious clothing, like turbans and hijabs.

Eweida then brought her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, which ruled that she had the right to manifest her religion, since her tiny silver crucifix didn't negatively impact the airline's brand.

Both Eweida and the British prime minister saw this as a symbolic win for Christians everywhere. The Associated Press reports:

Eweida, 60, said when she heard the verdict "I was jumping for joy and saying 'thank you Jesus.'"

"It's a vindication that Christians have a right to express their faith on par with other colleagues at work visibly and not be ashamed of their faith," she said.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he was "delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld."


It was a landmark case at a moment when many Christians in Great Britain fear that they are becoming marginalized. A report published last year by Christians in Parliament, a group of eight U.K. parliamentary members, argued that the secularization of society had led to "a narrowing of the space for the articulation, expression and demonstration of Christian belief."

But most of the cases cropping up in British courts involve the conflict between Christian belief and the rights of gays and lesbians, and the European court struck down two cases of this type. Local registrar Lillian Ladele claimed that her Christian beliefs prevented her from authorizing same-sex civil partnerships, and marriage counselor Gary McFarlane refused to take gay couples as clients. The European court decided that the right to religious expression was limited when it came to the discrimination of others.


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Jane Morel

OK. Wear your cross. I'll wear a symbol of the two female-gender symbols interlocked together. No? Why not? I have the right to express what I am, what I support and what I believe in. But an employer would tell me I can't, not because he hates gay girls, but because that kind of thing has the potential to create conflict with anal, hateful customers and give the business a bad rep with bigots. I have every right to be whatever I am, but when I'm working for my boss, I have to put on a different identity. I am essentially his, and if I want to get paid I will operate the way he wants me to, and not wear things that might cause conflict. It's not right for any customers, or any people even, to instigate a fight and harass me for wearing a symbol that suggests I might be gay. It's not right for customers to create a riot over a petty little thing like that (i.e. "THIS BUSINESS IS EVIL, THEY SUPPORT GROSS PERVERTED GIRLS WHO DARE TO HAVE RELATIONSHIPS I FIND UNATTRACTIVE"). But they will. I can almost assure you that someday some "Christian" 60 year old fart with a stick up his rear end will walk in and verbally attack me when he sees that symbol. Likewise, it's not right for anyone to harass you for wearing a cross in public, but if there's a risk it might cause controversy (i.e. someone walking in, seeing the symbol and calling you a bigot) you are responsible to be the bigger man/woman and leave that at home. Unless you are working someplace where being Christian is relevant to the job (aka A CHURCH) there is no reason for you to have to flash around something like that. The only thing it could do is make people who aren't Christian or who are considered "enemies" by FAKE Christians feel unwelcome in the place you are working. It's not discrimination. If you make customers feel unwelcome and do stuff that causes conflict in the workplace you deserve to get fired.
People who define themselves as Christian by the fact that they flash cross symbols and bible quotes at people and pour their funds into legislation to take away the rights of gays and women (i.e. SALVATION ARMY) are not real Christians. Real Christians don't identify by that...they identify by being loving and helpful people who contribute to charity and help the needy. I have never in my life seen a vocally gay-hating bigot working for charity unless it was just to look good in front of other people, and even then they don't do much. I'm a gay atheist who does charity all the time and I believe 100% that none of those people, who act only out of fear of social rep or some magical sky-wizard, have the grounds to claim they're more "moral" people than I am. If you define your religion by being able to have a necklace, I'm pretty sure that counts like worshipping an idol or something. Show your religion by kind acts and love of God and other humans. Your boss should not be legally obligated to let you wear whatever you want at your job when he just wants to get business.

January 19 2013 at 8:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cindy

As long as her religious beliefs don't violate someone else's rights, there shouldn't have been a problem.

January 19 2013 at 8:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bobnpath

what a bizarre way to look at rights...
are rights conferred upon us by the state?
of course not...we have natural rights, God gives rights
and the state does one of two things...recognizes them
or denies them to us. As Catholic I'd have worn my cross
anyway...let them imprison us for such if they will.

January 19 2013 at 6:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
teetse123

Totalitarian governments and dictatorships throughout history have always tried to get rid of religions. Just stating a fact.

January 19 2013 at 4:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mbriankell

Ooooooooooooh, I'm a Christian, so I should get special rights that followers of other religions don't get!
Can an employee wear the Star of David? A Muslim moon and star? A Flying Spaghetti Monster?

January 19 2013 at 2:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sjk09s

That's just crazy that they couldn't wear a cross to work! Really, does it hurt anyone if someone is wearing a simple cross around their neck? This PC, too easily offended crap has to stop. Yes, I'm a Christian, if a Jewish person wants to wear a Jewish star...I'm OK, if a Muslim wants to wear some religious jewelery...I'm OK. In fact, I don't even think twice about it. Chill people.

January 19 2013 at 1:05 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jabaileydc

I was hoping that it was to be allowed to practice birth control!

January 19 2013 at 12:15 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
mpsbh

She has a right to wear whatever she wants. If the muslims dont like it, who cares...really.

January 18 2013 at 9:44 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Susie

Do atheists realize how utterly paranoid they look, when they freak out over a piece of jewelry? Seriously, if the mere sight of a cross causes you emotional distress, maybe you shouldn't BE in the workplace. Maybe you should be sitting at home, heavily medicated and drawing SSI.

January 18 2013 at 9:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Susie's comment
talari

Maybe the atheists actually do believe yet continue to live their pagan lifestyle.

January 19 2013 at 1:22 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Richard

All this was over one tiny cross? That only offends people in Saudi Arabia, not in Europe.

January 18 2013 at 6:03 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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