Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Cross cases: European Court of Human Rights judgement on Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin Jan 15

Christians lose and win their protests at the European Court of Human Rights. 

British Airways employee Nadia Eweida has won her fight at the European Court of Human Rights. But nurse Shirley Chaplin has lost her protest.

Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin were disciplined by British Airways and the NHS respectively for wearing crosses at work.

This is from the press release from the European Court released on Tuesday January 15:

Right to manifest religion at work is protected but must be balanced against rights of others.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom the
European Court of Human Rights held:

by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 9 (freedom of religion) of
the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned Ms Eweida;

unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 9 of the European Convention,
taken alone or in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), as
concerned Ms Chaplin

Ms Eweida, a British Airways employee, and Ms Chaplin, a geriatrics nurse, complained that their employers placed restrictions on their visibly wearing Christian crosses around their necks while at work.

The Court did not consider that the lack of explicit protection in UK law to regulate the
wearing of religious clothing and symbols in the workplace in itself meant that the right
to manifest religion was breached, since the issues could be and were considered by the
domestic courts in the context of discrimination claims brought by the applicants.

In Ms Eweida’s case, the Court held that on one side of the scales was Ms Eweida’s
desire to manifest her religious belief. On the other side of the scales was the employer’s
wish to project a certain corporate image. While this aim was undoubtedly legitimate,
the domestic courts accorded it too much weight.

As regards Ms Chaplin, the importance for her to be allowed to bear witness to her
Christian faith by wearing her cross visibly at work weighed heavily in the balance.
However, the reason for asking her to remove the cross, namely the protection of health
and safety on a hospital ward, was inherently more important than that which applied in
respect of Ms Eweida and the hospital managers were well placed to make decisions
about clinical safety.

See my blog entry 'Show 'em Your Cross' for comment on this.

Also see eChurch blog for more comment.

1 comment:

  1. I am so pleased that the court has come to what can only be (in any decent minded person's view) the correct decision. BA were obviously in the wrong in their treatment of Eweida – as Muslims women can wear headscarves and Sikh men can wear their turbans - so why not a cross if that is important to you.

    However, as someone who works in a hospital, I know the wearing of jewellery is often forbidden on many a hospital ward – I don’t really see why crosses should be made an exception – Muslim female doctors regularly wear outfits that don’t have long sleeves (revealing their bare arms despite this being contrary to conservative Muslim dress for women) in accordance with infection control protocols, so why should Chaplin get to wear her cross. Moreover, reading through the employment hearing, the NHS did everything it could to accommodate Chaplin’s wishes – but she was encouraged to continue the case by the Christian Legal Centre.

    Hurrah for common sense is what I say!