In 2006, Nadia Eweida a British Airways worker, was suspended for wearing what her employers said was a violation of the since-modified uniform code. BA had a policy of not permitting additions to the uniform and so ordered Ms Eweida to follow the rules. She refused and claimed religious discrimination.
Shirley Chaplin left her 31-year nursing career after refusing to hide or remove the cross she wore on a necklace chain. The NHS trust‘s uniform and dress code prohibits front-line staff from wearing any type of necklace be that a crucifix or any chain in case patients try to grab them. They offered Mrs Chaplin the compromise of wearing her cross pinned inside a uniform lapel or pocket, but she said being asked to hide her faith was “disrespectful”.
Christian groups in Britain have expressed outrage at the controversy.
Ministers will argue that the display of a cross is “not a requirement of Christian faith” in the manner of a Sikh turban or Muslim hijab. Last week The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that the cross should be seen as “religious decoration” rather than a Christian requirement.
The government will also say that wearing a cross is not a requirement of Christianity, so wearing one in public is not protected by the law. The The British government is the defendant in the case.
The matter is likely to hinge on interpretation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which offers wide latitude in freedom of religion.
Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, and to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.