Airline worker's joy at crucifix pendant verdict
A BRITISH Airways employee who was forced out of her job for wearing a cross said Christian rights were "vindicated" in the UK after she won a landmark legal battle.
Nadia Eweida, 60, took the airline to a tribunal when she was sent home from work for displaying a small silver crucifix on a chain around her neck.
Her claims of religious discrimination were rejected in Britain but today judges in Strasbourg found in her favour.
A European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling concluded there had been a violation of Miss Eweida's right to demonstrate her faith which caused her "considerable anxiety, frustration and distress".
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
They rejected similar claims made by another three Christians. Exeter nurse Shirley Chaplin, marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane and registrar Lillian Ladele lost their cases in the same ruling. They can now appeal against the decision at the Grand Chamber of the Court.
Miss Eweida left her job in airport check-in in September 2006 but returned to work in customer services at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in February 2007, after BA changed its uniform policy on visible items of jewellery.
She said she was "jumping for joy" following the ECHR's decision but expressed disappointed for the other three applicants.
Speaking outside her lawyer's chambers in central London, she said: "I'm very happy, and 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, in paragraph 114 in the judgment, that I have suffered anxiety, frustration and distress.
"I'm disappointed on behalf of the other three applicants but I fully support them in their asking for a referral for their cases to be heard in the Grand Chamber, and I wish them every success in the future to win.
"I was very selfish initially when I heard the verdict because I was jumping for joy and saying 'thank you Jesus'."
Miss Eweida, from Twickenham, south-west London, added: "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."
The lengthy judgment found a fair balance was not struck between Miss Eweida's desire to demonstrate her religious belief and BA's wish to "project a certain corporate image".
It found the airline's aim was "undoubtedly legitimate" but said domestic courts accorded it "too much weight".
It concluded: "Ms Eweida's cross was discreet and cannot have detracted from her professional appearance.
"There was no evidence that the wearing of other, previously authorised, items of religious clothing, such as turbans and hijabs, by other employees had any negative impact on British Airways' brand or image.
"Moreover, the fact that the company was able to amend the uniform code to allow for the visible wearing of religious symbolic jewellery demonstrates that the earlier prohibition was not of crucial importance.
"The court therefore concludes that, in these circumstances where there is no evidence of any real encroachment on the interests of others, the domestic authorities failed sufficiently to protect the first applicant's right to manifest her religion."
In their ruling, judges rejected claims made by lawyers for the Government who argued Miss Eweida's rights were only protected in private.
Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the ruling on Twitter.
He wrote: "Delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld – ppl shouldn't suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs."
The British Government was ordered to pay Miss Eweida 2,000 euro (£1,600) in damages and 30,000 euro (£25,000) to cover costs.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "We are delighted that the cross has been recognised and indeed that Nadia has won her case.
"We are saddened that Shirley Chaplin lost her case."
The ECHR judges rejected the case of Mrs Chaplin, a nurse, on the grounds that the removal of her necklace was deemed necessary to protect the health and safety of nurses and patients.
The nurse, from Exeter, was switched to a desk job after she refused to take off a crucifix which hung round her neck. She took the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital to an employment tribunal in 2010, claiming that taking off the cross would violate her faith.