Brussels - A British Airways (BA) worker said Tuesday she was “jumping for joy” over a landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) allowing her to wear a Christian cross necklace with her uniform.
“I'm very happy and very pleased that Christian rights have been vindicated in the UK and Europe,” said Nadia Eweida, a Coptic Christian, in London.
Earlier, the Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled that the 61-year-old Briton's right to freedom of religion had been violated by BA's 2006 decision to make her stop wearing the symbol beneath her uniform.
In the course of a lengthy court battle, BA has changed its uniform policy to allow employees to wear symbols of faith at the airline, where Eweida still works.
However, the ECHR ruling also said that while the right to manifest religion at work was protected, it must be “balanced against the rights of others.”
Therefore, restrictions would apply to the public display of religious symbols “where an individual's religious observance impinges on the rights of others.”
Eweida's case was heard together with three others, also brought by practicing Christians from Britain, in which the court ruled there was no violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In the case of Shirley Chaplin, a 57-year-old nurse, the judges ruled that her hospital employers had been right to ask her to remove the cross necklace at work on health and safety grounds.
The hospital managers were “well placed to make decision about clinical safety,” said the judges.
They dismissed two others cases - brought by a marriage counsellor and a registrar - who had refused to advise gay couples on sex therapy and conduct same-sex civil partnerships respectively. The court backed their employers' policy of non-discrimination against service-users.
Legal commentators said the ruling gave wide discretion to employers to set reasonable policies, while decisions would continue to be made on a case-by-case basis. - Sapa-dpa