LONDON: Downing Street is under increasing pressure to re-examine the law on religious symbols at work after Strasbourg judges upheld the right of one Christian worker to wear a cross while rejecting that of another.
In what appeared to be mixed messages from the Government, No 10 insisted the “law as it stands strikes the right balance” before Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) judgement would be examined to see if a change was needed.
In a controversial landmark case, the Echr ruled British Airways had breached Nadia Eweida’s human rights, in particular her right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, when it banned her from wearing a crucifix before changing its uniform policy to accommodate the 60-year-old.
Eweida, a Coptic Christian from Twickenham in south-west London, said she felt “vindicated” after the court decided she had been caused “considerably anxiety, frustration and distress” and ordered the government to pay her £26,600 in damages and costs.
However, judges ruled the rights of three other Christians were not violated by their employers. They included nurse Shirley Chaplin, 57, banned from wearing a cross on health and safety grounds, as well as marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane and registrar Lillian Ladele, who both said their religious values prevented them from dealing with same-sex couples.
The judgement was welcomed as a victory for “common sense” by equality experts as well as gay rights and secular groups but caused outrage amongst Christian organisations, who insisted it created a hierarchy of rights.