Why the government is fighting the cross-ban case

A question from David Davis to Kenneth Clarke yesterday:

On 4 September, the European Court of Human Rights will hear the case of Nadia Eweida v. the United Kingdom Government. I understand that the Government are resisting the case. Miss Eweida is the lady who effectively lost her job with British Airways for wearing a cross, a symbol of her religion, at work. Is it any part of the British Government’s policy to support the denial of people’s religious rights at work? If not, will we reconsider our position on that case?

There are good reasons why the government should continue to fight this case and, to use David Davis’s words, why the government should continue to deny people’s religious rights at work.

The very idea of religious rights at work, beyond the basic protection against discrimination, is absurd. Why should someone have rights that other employees don’t just because they believe something strongly?

Until recently, people didn’t have any religious rights at work. Since the religious discrimination legislation was introduced, the courts’ interpretation of  it has, for the most part, been fairly narrow, which is why in both Nadia Eweida’s and Shirley Chaplin’s cases, the right of the employer to set a dress code was upheld.

But what will happen if they win their ECHR case? It will effectively create a legal right to wear religious symbols in the workplace. This is the bit that a lot of the right-wingers who support Eweida and Chaplin don’t get. They think they are fighting for Christian values, or something like that, but if the ECHR finds in their favour, the ruling will apply to all religions.

Many of the people who are most vocal in their backing for Eweida and Chaplin are the same ones who scream about creeping sharia and dhimmitude whenever Muslim workers refuse to handle alcohol or demand the right to wear the niqab. But if the ECHR upholds the right to wear the cross in defiance of an employer’s instructions, we will see a lot more cases like this. If an employee’s deeply held belief trumps an employers dress code, or even, as in Shirley Chaplin’s case, its health and safety policy, then religious people get a free pass.

And what counts as a religion? EU discrimination law refers to ‘religion or belief’ and courts have recently ruled that environmentalism and opposition to fox hunting are covered by religious discrimination law. If strong belief endows people with extra rights in the workplace people will be claiming all sorts of things. The courts will have to decide what counts as a belief, what that belief demands and whether it counts in each case. It’s an extreme example but, if a Christian has the right to wear a cross, does a Nazi have the right to wear a swastika?

Victory for Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin would almost certainly lead to claims from those of other faiths and beliefs. The Mail and Telegraph would soon change their tunes when councils were unable to stop teachers wearing full burkas. Instead of this we’d get this.

As I said last time this came up, the government is not seeking to deprive Christians, or anyone else, of rights they once had. Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin and their supporters are attempting to create new workplace rights for Christians and, by extension, for the followers of other religions and beliefs too. So yes, David Davis, the government should continue to deny these rights. And those who think they want Eweida and Chaplin to win should be careful what they wish for.

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29 Responses to Why the government is fighting the cross-ban case

  1. Pingback: Why the government is fighting the cross-ban case - Rick - Member Blogs - HR Blogs - HR Space from Personnel Today and Xpert HR

  2. John H says:

    Good points. It always surprises me that the likes of the Telegraph, not to mention those of a more libertarian bent, think the state should have the right to veto private sector employers’ dress codes.

    That said, while “religious rights” might not have existed ten years ago, it was probably also rarer for employers to forbid the wearing of unobtrusive religious symbols. Which brings me to what I think is an overlooked point in all: the growth in highly-prescriptive dress and uniform codes, often in the name of corporate branding – where there can sometimes be a slightly Maoist flavour to the proceedings. I’d guess that fifteen years ago, BA crew could wear unobtrusive religious symbols or union badges or whatever without much comment, but now everything has to be strictly “in alignment with the brand”.

    When the (more or less) explicit purpose of a dress code is to subsume individual identity under a corporate identity, it’s not surprising this leads to tensions with those with strong senses of individual identity (or of identity with a group other than the employer) – which can include those with a strong religious faith.

  3. B.O. Locks says:

    Employers don’t own their employees.

    Employees go to work to earn a crust and it is an abuse of employer power, in my view, to force an employee to suppress their identity, or expression of it, just because they need a job and are not independently wealthy. Rich people, who have no need of a job, are permitted to wear expressions of their beliefs, religious or otherwise, 24/7. But not the working classes, it seems. There is an issue of power and class at work here.

    As for the health and safety justification for this oppression, this appears to me to be entirely spurious. How does wearing a cross pose a health and safety risk? Are BA’s customers vampires who will recoil;, shrivel up and die at the sight of a crucifix? If that is a genuine belief of BA them methinks employers and their apologists have been watching too many Hammer horror films.

    As for members of other faiths wearing their religious symbols, why not? Provided doing so does not genuinely interfere with their ability to do the job for which they are paid it should not be an employer’s business.

    It seems to me that as the power of the State becomes increasingly curtailed because of the Human Rights Act, the power accreting to employers increases. In short there appears to be a transfer of power from State to employers, who, of course, conveniently are not caught by HRA.

    If this trend is allowed to continue then a glimpse into the future reveals a nightmare worthy of any distopian science fiction novel. Will the price of future employment require the implantation of microchips into the brains of employees? Will employment tribunals decide this to be a reasonable requirement if employers are to to achieve and to sustain competitiveness? Will human beings be compelled to become cyborgs in exchange for employment? Fanciful now, you might say, but nightmarish visions have a habit of being realised. The decision to ban an employee from wearing a crucifix creates the legal and cultural climate for these nightmares to become reality.

    I believe there will be all sorts of horrendous consequences for employees if this trend of increasing employer power over employees is allowed to continue. We are not robots / clones. We are human beings! (With apologies to the cult TV series, The Prisoner)

    I for one hope the appeal wins. Not out of religious conviction, but because of the class and power reasons that underpin this issue and which so far very few commentators appear to have considered.

  4. B.O. Locks says:

    As an addendum, comparing Nazi insignia with a crucifix is an odious comparison.

    I say this because Jewish people and Gypsies have no objective reasons to be distressed and alarmed by a person wearing a cross. Nor do any other faiths or racial groups. However, Gypsies and Jews have good and objective reason to be distressed and alarmed by a person displaying Nazi insignia. In fact, I believe that the latter act could be prosecuted as a common law criminal offence. So there really is no comparison between the two cases. Allowing a Christian to wear a crucifix in the workplace does not open the door for Nazis to wear their preferred insignia and it is specious to say so

    • Matthew R says:

      Nonsense. The multifarious groups that have been persecuted by Christians down the centuries have exactly as much right to be distressed by crucifixes. I include atheists such as myself in this. I am extremely distressed by the spread of evangelical christianity that threatens to return us to another dark age. Yes, national socialism was a terrible thing, but is Christianity any less wicked simply because most of its abuses happened longer ago and it has recently developed a benign public face (ignoring the continuing chaos caused by resistance to contraception, sex education, etc?)

      However, the history of a particular creed shouldn’t be nor is it the reason per se to ban its symbols. The reason is that employers are entitled to impose reasonable dress codes on their employees. As it happens many employers recognise that customers and other employees can be discomfited by open displays of ideology such as Nazism and Christianity. So while bans on swastikas and crucifixes are not essential, they are perfectly reasonable.

      • B.O. Locks says:

        Well, of course Christianity is less wicked than Nazism. Do you think this matter would be going to the ECtHR if Nazi insignia were the subject of the case?

      • Matthew R says:

        Re. B.O.Lock’s response: “Well, of course Christianity is less wicked than Nazism. Do you think this matter would be going to the ECtHR if Nazi insignia were the subject of the case?”

        I note you make no attempt to address the points I made. You simply state “well, of course…”. But, ‘of course’, stating something as fact without any attempt at factual or rational justification is a wonderful way of illustrating the religious mindset. Thank you for that.

  5. Steve Williams says:

    B.O. Locks:

    “How does wearing a cross pose a health and safety risk? Are BA’s customers vampires who will recoil;, shrivel up and die at the sight of a crucifix?”

    The health and safety explanation doesn’t relate to Nadia Eweida, the BA stewardess, it relates to Shirley Chaplin, who was a nurse. I’m no expert, but I imagine dangling jewellery isn’t acceptable for nurses in the same way it isn’t appropriate for workers on production lines. Maybe it touches an open wound, for example. Or perhaps a distressed patient reaches out and grabs it, causing harm to the employee.

    I have to say, I think you’re hyperventilating a bit here. Yes, employers do have more power than they used to, and as John H said, they’re probably being tighter on dress-codes than they used to be, and that isn’t a wholly positive development. However, for all of the reasons given in the post (most important amongst which is the fact Eweida and Chaplin are claiming a new right for themselves, not re-stating an old one) this isn’t the first step toward an Orwellian dystopia (kind of surprising this needs pointing out).

    Rick:

    “The Mail and Telegraph would soon change their tunes when councils were unable to stop teachers wearing full burkas.”

    Absolutely. I think it’s a mistake to view this as some sort of corporate cognitive dissonance though. The articles you highlight are intended for different audiences. Hardcore Christians, and Islamophobic racists are both groups that read the Mail and the Telegraph. They probably cross over on a Venn diagram, but they aren’t the same thing. This is why it doesn’t make complete sense to regard the totality of articles in a newspaper as that newspaper’s ‘worldview’ or ‘ideology'; instead of ideas about how the country should be run, they’re better understood as a series of missives pandering to different elements of the readership, and as such there’s no requirement for internal consistency.

    • B.O. Locks says:

      @ Steve Williams

      So in the BA case there appears to be no attempt to justify the crucifix ban? That revelation strengthens my case, doesn’t it?. It the State, in this case an employment tribunal, is to interfere in an individual’s right to display their religious affiliation then there had better be a good reason for it. A genuine health and safety concern would be such a reason but I question whether conformity for its own sake is sufficient justification for interfering with this right. And yes, there is a right of religious expression given by the Human Rights Act.

      In the case of the nurse, the h & s reason cited is that patients may pull on it. Clutching at crucifixes or clutching at straws? This sounds a pretty desperate attempt at justification to me. Why on earth would a bed-bound patient want to reach out and pull a crucifix off a nurse’s person? Even if there were reasons for patients to do this, what are the risks? OK so the crucifix dangles and has quite a long drop and yes, there may be potential for it to dangle into a patient’s open wound. This being so, a proportionate solution is to pin it to the uniform, much the same way as nurses have watches pinned to their uniforms. It is disproportionate to deprive someone of their livelihood over such a trivial matter.

      In all my working life, I have come across many employees wearing crucifixes or other symbols of their beliefs or interests and they have done this with impugnity. Employer objections to this custom and practice are recent and so although I concede there is no statutory right to wear such symbols, neither is there a statutory prohibition. The law is silent on the matter. So the plaintiffs are not attempting to establish new rights – they are merely trying to re-affirm rights that have historically been allowed to employees via custom and practice. These rights may now exists in statute via the HRA. We shall see. As a general principle, people in this country are free to do as they please unless forbidden by the law. Without a specific prohibition in law, then the plaintiffs may well be correct to assert a human rights breach. A prohibition may potentially be inferred from h & s legislation but this would have to be pretty persuasive, in my view, and not the unconvincing reasons cited so far.

      If you read my post carefully, you will see that I made no reference to George Orwell. Nor do I contend that this matter touches upon the subject of Orwell’s fears. I did mention the Prisoner, a TV series from the 1960s, but nothing about Orwell, which is quite separate. Orwell said nothing about exchanging one’s humanity for employment by becoming a cyborg. No doubt some author has written about it but I am afraid you cite the wrong author in this connection.

      As for “hyper-ventilating”, well yes, I believe strongly in individual liberties which I perceive are being eroded by employers and their apologists, with the connivance of the State (in these cases with the connivance of the employment tribunals service). My concern is that the employment contract is becoming overly oppressive and this does not bode well for the future unless it is nipped in the bud. So I am on the side of the plaintiffs.

    • Rick says:

      Steve – agreed, the editors of Mail and Telegraph are not professors of logic. They are quite happy to pander to different and contradictory prejudices at the same time. That way you sell more papers!

  6. Rick says:

    B.O.Locks – You are spectacularly missing the point here.

    The state, via the employment tribunals, is not intervening at all. It was Chaplin and Eweida who brought these cases to court in the hope that the law would intervene, which it didn’t.

    Your assertion that “people in this country are free to do as they please unless forbidden by the law” clearly does not apply in the employment context. Employers can tell employees what to wear just as they can tell them what time to turn up and what time to clock off. There is no right to wear a cross at work just as there is no right to wear jeans at work. If anything, employer dress codes are more relaxed now than they have been for years but employers are still legally entitled to set them.

    In most jobs, people are allowed to wear crosses and thousands of people do. What religious campaigners are trying to do is to create a positive legal right to do so. It is they, not the employers or the state, that are trying to change the status quo.

  7. B.O. Locks says:

    Sorry Rick but I disagree with you.

    An item of religious insignia does not really form part of the dress code. A BA hostess may follow her employee’s dress code scrupulously with or without a crucifix. I believe that describing a crucifix or other religious insignia that express an individual’s identity as dress code is not accurate. A crucifix does not supply the essential functions of clothes, (warmth, modesty, etc). They are fundamentally different. I accept that employers can instruct employees as to dress code when business requirements demand it. But where is no business case, as in the case of an air hostess who chooses to wear a crucifix or some other religious symbol, then it is not the business of an employer.

    I do not believe the plaintiffs are trying to create a new or positive right. I believe this positive right already exists in the Human Rights Act. I fail to see why an individual’s human right to manifest their religious belief should be suspended at the command of an employer once an employee enters the work place. Instructions given by employers to employees must be reasonable and unless there is a legitimate business reason for banning religious insignia in the workplace then I believe it is unreasonable and unlawful to do so. Anyway, we’ll have to wait until September on that point.

    As to the point of necessity referred to in an earlier post, it is not necessary to go to Church to manifest one’s Christian faith. Does this mean that the authorities have a right to ban someone from attending church because it is not a necessary component of their faith? I don’t think so. I believe BA’s lawyers have over interpreted HRA when they say that wearing a cross is not necessary to manifest one’s faith. It is not up to the State to tell people what they can and cannot do to manifest their faith.

    I am not trying to be unreasonable here. I accept that employers have a right to lay down a dress code when business requirements demand it. So there must be give and take. But it concerns me when employers and others in authority venture into a person’s religious beliefs and their manifestation. I am not sure how relevant the inverse of all this is, that is, when the Jews of central Europe were compelled to wear the yellow star of David last century. I suspect, however, the ECtHR may have this historical episode in mind when it forms a judgement. It may well perceive parallels with this case that have escaped us.

    Bur for me, the over riding value in this case is freedom. Why curtail an individual’s freedom when there is no public interest in doing so?

  8. This is a really interesting debate. The Eweida case in particular is quite complicated. There are two separate issues here. One is to do with whether the dress code amounted to indirect discrimination; the other is whether there was an interference with Eweida’s freedom to manifest her religious belief.

    I happen to think that the Court of Appeal was wrong to reject her appeal on the indirect discrimination point. The legal issue there is whether there needs to be a ‘group’ which can be identified as sharing the claimant’s belief. I think you should be able to claim indirect discrimination even if you are the only person who believes what you believe. The Court of Appeal, however, did not accept that. Eweida made the tactical mistake at the outset of claiming that the rule disadvantaged all Christians -which is clearly wrong. No effort was put into identifying a group of people who believe that the cross must not only be worn but worn in a way that is visible to others. In the absence of such a group of believers the Court took the view that she had failed to show that the rule disadvantaged others who share her religious belief.

    That meant that the issue of whether BA’s rule was justifiable did not arise. Just as well for them, because their obsessive branding would have been found by the Tribunal to be disproportionate.

    However, Just because I think that Eweida should have been allowed to wear her cross does not mean that her human rights have been infringed. The issue of whether wearing the cross is a ‘manifestation’ of Christianity is a very technical one based on previous case law of the European Court of Human Rights which has tended to take a rather limited view of what a ‘manifestation’ is. Even if the Court changes its view on that, though, we then have to ask whether her right has actually been infringed. Does being required to cover up her cross during working hours really amount to an interference in her ability to manifest her belief? She is after all perfectly entitled to wear her cross as prominently as she likes during the rest of her day. And she was able to move jobs within BA to a role with a less strict dress code.

    I’m not a Human Rights lawyer so I can’t assess her actual chances of winning. But Rick is quite right to point out the wide ranging consequences if she does – and the irony of Conservative politicians urging the European Court of human Rights to interfere more radically in private employment relationships than they ever have before.

    As for the Chaplin case. I think B.O. Locks is too dismissive of the health and safety case. It was discussed widely in the Tribunal and centred around the hygiene implications of loose jewellery being worn by nurses. In recent years much more emphasis has been placed on this issue after all the scandals involving infections in hospital and it is perfectly understandable that the hospital would want to clamp down. In a hospital, germs spread by dangling Jewellery can be a matter of life and death. In Chaplin’s case the claim also failed on the fact that there was no identified group of believers, but the Tribunal held that even if they were wrong about that (I think they were) then they would have held the rule to be justifiable. I can’t see how that conclusion can be challenged in the circumstances. If her freedom to manfest her religion has been interfered with then surely the ECHR will hold that the interference was ‘necessary’ to ‘protect the rights of others’.

    It is worth bearing in mind that one solution suggested by the Hospital was that she should display a cross as part of her (wipe clean) hospital name badge. However she declined on the basis that the necklace she wore the cross from was as important as the cross itself. Make what you will of that.

    • B.O. Locks says:

      @ Darren

      I agree it is a very interesting debate.

      I think the consequences if Eweida loses will also be wide ranging, as I have intimated already.

      One thing that genuinely puzzles me is why the UK state seems to think that employees lose their human rights in the workplace. The State accepts it would be unlawful to prevent Eweida from wearing a crucifix outside the workplace, but believes it is lawful to stop her when in the workplace. Were there a business case for the ban then I could accept it but in the Eweida case there appears to be none. Instead it just appears to be an arbitrary exercise of power against a relatively powerless employee.Your point that her human rights have not been withdrawn because she is able to wear her cross outside the workplace seems to suggest that whilst in the workplace she is not to be treated as a human being.

      The Employment Tribunals Service and the UK courts, being manifestations of the State, are duty bound to consider Convention case law and Article rights in their findings. I get the distinct impression that nether have given serious consideration to Eweida’s rights under the Convention. The “master-servant” relationship that underpins UK employment law appears to predominate the State’s thinking. The “master-servant” relationship is an anachronism in my view and perhaps the ECtHR will nudge the UK State to update itself if the judgement goes in Eweida’s favour. This won’t be the first time that the UK has been obliged to modernise. Gaskin v UK 1989 also achieved modernisation even though the Court of Appeal under Lord Denning’s rule had found decisively against Gaskin in 1979.

      I cross my fingers in hope, if you will forgive the pun.

  9. Steve Williams says:

    B.O. Locks:

    “One thing that genuinely puzzles me is why the UK state seems to think that employees lose their human rights in the workplace.”

    I fear you will continue to be puzzled by this as long as you believe that ‘wearing what you want, when you want’ is a human right. It isn’t. Employers have the right to set a reasonable dress code. This has been confirmed in case law time and again. I understand that you feel this is different to ‘jeans in the office’ because it’s a religious symbol, but as Darren pointed out above, the ECHR doesn’t consider just anything a ‘manifestation’ of religious belief. There is no scriptural or doctrinal requirement for Christian women to wear jewellery with crosses on.

    “I accept that employers have a right to lay down a dress code when business requirements demand it.”

    . . . and there may be business requirements in these cases. Darren already addressed the health and safety problems with wearing loose jewellery in a hospital (and it’s worth pointing out, this needn’t just be about the jewellery transporting germs in, it could equally go the other way. Do we really want MRSA or something out in the community?)

    Considering the flight stewardess example, BA don’t just fly to Britain and Europe. There are large parts of the world (China, Thailand, the Middle East, etc) where wearing a visible cross could, in certain circumstances, be considered Christian proselytsing, which might be against local laws or customs. BA clearly has a legitimate business interest in employees not breaking the laws of nations in which they’re staying. It’s worth stressing again, that both Chaplin and Eweida were given alternative options (cross on the wipe-clean card, cross necklace under the uniform) and offered alternative roles by their employers when the issues arose.

    They really are trying to create a new human right, codifying a freedom found in most workplaces into a legislative requirement for every workplace. Personally, I don’t see why hospitals should risk infections, or airlines re-organise their flight rotas, around jewellery the wearing of which isn’t a scriptural or doctrinal requirement. I guess we’ll have to wait for the result.

    • B.O. Locks says:

      @Steve Williams

      Yes, we will have to wait to see what the ECtHR says in September.

      I think you (deliberately?) misrepresent me when you say, “I fear you will continue to be puzzled by this as long as you believe that ‘wearing what you want, when you want’ is a human right.”

      I have not said or suggested that wearing what you want is a human right. A careful reader can discern this by reading back over my previous posts. Quite the contrary, I have expressly conceded that employers have a right to set a dress code where a business case demands it.

      In the case of Eweida, she is not an air hostess. She is a baggage handler, so the cultural aspects you put forward as a business case are absent. Moreover the crucifix, the subject of the case, is small and does not have a long drop (ie it does not dangle over much distance). It is difficult to see what the business case is for banning someone from manifesting their religion, whether in or out of the workplace.

      There are no requirements for Christians to wear, say or do anything to manifest their religion. Going to Church is a manifestation but it is not a requirement. Praying is a manifestation, but it is not a requirement. One can believe in God and Jesus without any discernible manifestations. The right to manifest is given by Article 9 of the Human Rights Act. Check it out. The right is not qualified or limited to it being a requirement.

      As far as I know, no faith places requirements on its followers so the “requirements arguments” is a complete red herring. The Sikh turban has statutory legal exemption because Sihks are held to be a race, not a religion.

      I do not believe Eweida is trying to create a new legal right. I think she is trying to affirm a right that already exists by virtue of the Human Rights Act. I believe it is the UK State that is seeking to suppress her legal right by resisting the case in Strasbourg in September.
      Reply

  10. Steve Williams says:

    B.O. Locks:

    First of all, my apologies – I became confused about her position at BA. Thank you for correcting me on this point. I shan’t bother to speculate further about BA’s position on the subject, since I’m now in the position of reducing knowledge rather than adding to it.

    It doesn’t, however, change the broader point that they are, in fact, claiming a new human right:

    “I think she is trying to affirm a right that already exists by virtue of the Human Rights Act.”

    That doesn’t, in any way, help to explain the outcomes of Azmi v Kirklees MBC or Dhilsa v SERCO which were mentioned in the previous posts on this subject. Courts in those cases, and others, found no human or legal right to break an employers dress code for ‘religious’ clothing, provided that a) there was a reason for the rules on dress in the first place, and b) the employer made a reasonable effort to come to a constructive solution with the employee before any disciplinary action was taken. I think these conditions have been met in the Chaplin/Eweida cases; you don’t. At any rate, I suspect we’re talking past each other at this point so I shall bow out here.

  11. I’m going to bow out too – but a couple of quick points. Eweida was I believe employed as a check in assistant not a baggage handler.

    The issue about requirements is not complete red herring. Preventing someone from doing something that their religion requires them to do is a greater imposition on them than preventing them from doing something related to their religion but which is not required. Contrary to what B.O. Locks says, many religions do have very strict requirements (orthopraxic is one of my new favourite words) . Most observant Sikh men would tell you that they are absolutely required to wear a Turban. It isn’t just something that they like wearing. By the way, the fact that Sikhs constitute an ethnic group in their own right in no way diminishes the extent to which Sikhism is a religion.One can be ethnically Sikh but not religious, just as one can be ethnically Jewish but not observant.

    The point I tried to make about ‘manifestation’ is that this is a term that the ECHR has addressed in the past and taken a restrictive view of. I can quite see how you can disagree with their interpretation and the fact is that they might amend their view when they come to decide these cases. The point is that it is quite understandable that the UK Government would want to pursue this restrictive interpretation, given the previous case law on the topic.

    I’m sure we will revisit all of this In September. Lets leave it ’til then shall we?

    • Tim says:

      I dislike the idea that a tribunal or court gets to decide what is an essential requirement of a faith.

      Secularism cuts both ways. Religion keeps out of civil law and civol law aviods trying to decide if a headcovering or a piece of jewlery is a an essential requirement.

      Having the right to do something or wear something is not the same as having the right to demand that others make adjustments to allow you to continue to behave as you do. We can argue as to whether or not an employer has a legitimate reason for a particular uniform, but it ought to be irrelevent as to whether a departure from the rule by an employee is religiously motivated or motivated by something else (football team supported or simply whim)

  12. B.O. Locks says:

    Thanks Steve and Darren. Until September!

  13. Dan says:

    It’s all part of the dangerous and expensive trend of rights inflation. It makes the right wing press look very disingenuous that they’re usually banging on about “political correctness gone mad” until it’s the Christians inventing new inalienable rights for themselves.

  14. John D says:

    None of the above comments reflects the fact that these cases are being brought by religious extremists who are supported by religious lawyers probably funded by US religious extremists.
    There are two motivations at play in these cases. Firstly, the religious lawyers are pursuing US-style attempts to change UK law such that religion will be given legal preferences; this already is the case with regard to employment and promotion in religious schools, for example, and the lawyers want to extend this preference even further. Secondly, I believe some of the applicants are motivated by greed and money. It is interesting to note that all the employers involved are large scale – hospitals and large transport companies. By taking the original cases to tribunals – where awards can be unlimited – the applicants probably hoped to clean up at the expense of the employers – though, of course, it is the rest of us who would end up footing the bill. It would help if all the commentators went to the trouble properly to read the original tribunal documentation to ensure they have a proper understanding as to the real motives of the religious extremists involved. It is all the more surpirsing – and disappointing – that David Davis – of all people – has fallen for the muck-raking “spin”, I have to say.

  15. Bunglebear says:

    I completely agree with previous posters about the dangling jewellery and health and safety in hospitals. B.O. Locks thinks it will not be grabbed. Really? Nurses work in psychiatric wards, or with children, both candidates for grabbing. Just the infection risk is enough without this danger.

    Both cases were also weakened by the fact the employers had no problem with them wearing a cross under their clothes, which is easily done with a necklace. The ladies (highly subjectively) felt their religion required them to show off an article of their faith – if this is considered a right then I’m afraid this opens the doors to a whole new level of ridiculous possibilities for breaking a reasonable dress code at work. Pasta strainer on the head anyone?

  16. TwotoneThomas says:

    I believe that we are simply naked apes. Does that give me the right to work in the classroom stark bollock naked?

      • TwotoneThomas says:

        Sorry bollox, I will try to spell it out.
        I have this crazy notion that we are no different to the other apes apart from we are not covered in hair (to the extent that the other apes are) hence the ‘naked ape’ description.
        As that is what I believe, can I ignore the school dress code and enter the classroom the same way I entered this earth, bollock naked?
        It’s a simple question that even simple people should understand.

  17. John D says:

    Actually, there is a very simple answer for the individuals involved: go and work for the religious organisations they pledge their allegiance to. It is obvious they feel little or no sense of loyalty to their current employers or customers and they would probably be happier working as a vicar, rabbi or other form of cleric or “minister”. Problem solved and no need for any legal course of action, saving a great deal of money all round and keeping the hands of lawyers off public funds.

  18. Pingback: Its not about banning crosses! | A Range of Reasonable Responses

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