Court Rules British Airways May Prohibit Crosses but not Symbols of Other Religions

Wed Jan 16, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By John-Henry Westen

LONDON, January 16, 2008 ( - A court ruling last week concluded that British Airways (BA) did not engage in unlawful discrimination when it suspended an employee for refusing to hide a cross necklace while at work, even though symbols of other religions are permitted.

In October 2006, Nadia Eweida, a Christian who works at the British Airways check-in counter at Heathrow Airport in London, was told that she must either cover up or remove a necklace depicting a small cross.  Eweida was placed on unpaid leave when she refused to conceal the cross.  British Airways allows employees of other religions, such as Islam and Hinduism, to wear faith-related items, including clothing, jewelry, and religious markings.

When the case originally hit the press in 2006, BA drew criticism from the Church of England, the Vatican and even from Christians leaders in Africa.  British politicians and some church leaders threatened to boycott BA, and the Church of England threatened to to sell its £6.6 million worth of BA shares, until BA said it would review the policy.

Eweida lost her initial suit against the company but won an injunction on appeal in the Reading Employment Tribunal.  However, in last Tuesday’s ruling in the case, Eweida v. British Airways, the court ruled the airline can continue to prohibit Eweida from visibly wearing her cross.  The court concluded that other types of religious symbols, such as turbans, bangles, and other religious markings are unable to be concealed and are therefore acceptable.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) which provided funding for Eweida’s case against the airline, will appeal the ruling. 

"Christian employees should not be singled out for discrimination.  This decision will be appealed," said ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull.  "According to British Airways, it’s okay for employees to wear a symbol of their faith unless it’s a Christian cross.  The airline took no action against employees of other religions who wore jewelry or symbols of their religion.  That type of intolerance is inconsistent with the values of civilized communities around the world."

"No Christian should be forced to hide her faith in the workplace, particularly when a double-standard exists targeting only Christians for discriminatory treatment.  This case should be of particular interest to the American customers of British Airways who understand and value religious liberty," concluded Bull.

To express concern to British Airways:

Contact British Airways by email through their website:

By Mail:

London Registered Office
  British Airways, plc
  PO Box 365
  Harmondsworth, Middlesex
  UB7 0GB

See BA Board of Governors list with contact information:

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