European Court Ruling on Religious Privilege

Sunday, 03 March 2013 18:10

Three landmark cases have clarified some important issues regarding employment law, freedom of conscience and religion and the right to religious expression.

Nadia Eweida, the British Airways check-in clerk who had not been allowed to wear any jewellery over her uniform (including a crucifix) won her case. BA already made accommodation for other faith groups, notably Sikh men and it seemed only fair that she should be allowed to display a small cross. However her victory was a personal one and not an outright ruling that gives employees the automatic right to express religious faith whilst at work.


The Nurse, Shirley Chaplain lost her right to wear a crucifix at work on health and safety grounds. It is right and understandable that medical staff should not wear any form of jewellery as part of infection control measures.

The cases of Lillian Ladele (Registrar) and Gary McFarlane (a Relate Counsellor) both lost their cases on similar grounds, namely their refusal to marry or counsel gay couples on religious grounds. Clearly the European Court rejected the notion that there should be any hierarchy in terms of equality issues especially where religion feels it should take precedence.

I believe these to be fair judgements and a useful clarification of a growing dilemma in some areas of the workplace. I sincerely hope it does not lead to a lessening of tolerance and accommodation towards employees with a strong personal faith because there is much that can be done to encourage a good work/life/faith balance.




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Home Case Studies & Work Examples European Court Ruling on Religious Privilege

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