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STRASBOURG, France: A British Airways employee suffered discrimination at work over the wearing of a cross, the European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday.
But at the same time the court decided against three other people from Britain who had filed cases claiming their religious rights had been violated.
Nadia Eweida (pictured), a 60-year-old Coptic Christian, took BA to the European rights court after British courts upheld the airline’s decision to ban her from wearing a crucifix.
The Strasbourg-based judges ruled that the British courts had given “too much weight” to BA’s desire to “project a certain corporate image” and her right to manifest her religious beliefs had been violated.
Eweida had worked since 1999 as a flight attendant for BA, whose uniform code stipulated that women must wear a high-necked shirt and a cravat, without any visible jewellery.
When the wearing of the cross provoked a dispute in 2006, she was offered an alternative job within the company, which she refused.
She eventually returned to work in February 2007 when BA’s policy was changed to permit the display of religious symbols, with the cross and the star of David permitted.
Speaking outside her lawyer’s offices in London, Eweida said: “I’m very happy and very pleased that Christian rights have been vindicated in the UK and Europe.
“I’m very pleased that after all this time the European court has specifically recognised... that I have suffered anxiety, frustration and distress.”
Shirley Chaplin, a 57-year-old geriatrics nurse, whose employer also stopped her wearing necklaces with a cross, lost her case after the court ruled that the reason for asking her to remove it “was inherently of much greater importance”.
Her employer had said the cross posed a health and safety issue as it could interfere with open wounds.
Chaplin told a press conference in London: “This to me is a bit like a wedding band so to take it off and to hide it is like divorcing God. I felt my beliefs were marginalised and ignored,” she said. The other unsuccessful claimant was Gary McFarlane, 51, a marriage counsellor who was sacked after saying he might object to giving therapy advice to ‘queer’ couples. AFP