An employee of British Airways has lost her appeal against the airline’s refusal to allow her to visibly wear a small cross while in uniform, BBC News reported yesterday.
Nadia Eweida, 55, has been on unpaid leave for almost two months, since her employers said she couldn’t allow a small cross she wears around her neck to show while she was at work. The airline defended the decision by saying the policy applies to all jewelry worn on a chain. Ms. Eweida was free to wear her cross so long as she made sure to conceal it beneath her uniform, the statement said.
Eweida has fought the ruling, saying her cross is a symbol of her faith, not jewelry, and should be permitted in the same way religious symbols of other faiths are permitted by the airline’s uniform policy. Muslim and Hindu employees are allowed to wear turbans, headscarves and bangles while in uniform.
The airline denied the charge that the policy discriminated against Christian employees. Religious symbols such as headscarves were only permitted, the airline said, because they could not be easily concealed beneath a uniform.
“British Airways has 34,000 uniformed staff, all of whom know they must abide by our uniform policy. The policy does not ban staff from wearing a cross. It lays down that personal items of jewelry, including crosses may be worn — but underneath the uniform. Other airlines have the same policy.
“The policy recognizes that it is not practical for some religious symbols — such as turbans and hijabs — to be worn underneath the uniform. This is purely a question of practicality. There is no discrimination between faiths.”
Dr. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and the second most senior Church of England cleric, spoke out against the British Airways’ decision, saying the airline’s policy permitting some religious symbols to be displayed but not others was “flawed,” the BBC reported yesterday.
“British Airways needs to look again at this decision ad to look at the history of the country it represents, whose culture, laws, heritage and tradition owes so much to the very same symbol it would ban.”
“Wearing a cross carries with it not only a symbol of our hopes but also a responsibility to act and to live as Christians. This symbol does not point only upwards but also outwards, it reminds us of our duties not only to God but also to one another.”
Dr. Sentamu urged the airline to reconsider its decision.
Ms. Eweida responded to the ruling by saying she was “fairly disappointed,” in an interview with BBC. “[B]ut I’m looking forward to the next stage because the cross is important and the truth will be revealed.
“It is important to wear it to express my faith so that other people will know that Jesus loves them.
Ms. Eweida has seven days to lodge a second appeal against the British Airways decision. She has stated in the past her intention of suing the airline for religious discrimination if her appeal was denied.