Ashfords Solicitors: Is the law set to change on wearing religious symbols in workplace? (From Somerset County Gazette)
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Ashfords Solicitors: Is the law set to change on wearing religious symbols in workplace?
9:28am Thursday 19th July 2012 in Business
THE political and legal row over whether Christians should be allowed to display religious symbols in the workplace is again in the spotlight following
comments from Prime Minister David Cameron during exchanges in the Commons last week . . . and it looks like the law may be set to change.
Two highly publicised cases in the UK, lost on appeal, have already been referred to the European Court of Human Rights.
Nadia Eweida, a British Airways worker, and Shirley Chaplin, a former nurse from Exeter, brought claims of indirect religious discriminations against their employers on the basis that they were not allowed to wear crosses around their necks.
The European Court has raised the stakes by ordering the UK Government to make a formal statement on whether it believes Christians’ rights have been infringed by previous decisions in the British Courts, which have repeatedly dismissed their right to dress according to their beliefs.
In each case it has demanded to know “did the restrictions on visibly wearing a cross or crucifix at work amount to an interference with the applicant’s right to manifest her religion or belief, as
protected by Article 9 [the right of freedom of religion] of the Convention.”
It has since been revealed that in the UK Government’s submission to the European Court, it dismissed the appellants' argument as “ill founded” and has opposed the appeal.
However, earlier this year, the European Court ruled that schools have a right to display a crucifix on classroom walls after an application brought by Roman Catholics in Italy.
That decision appeared to set European Human Rights law at odds with British Courts.
During Prime Minister’s Question Time last week, Mr Cameron said that he was fully supportive of the right to display, discreetly, a symbol of faith in the workplace, commenting that, in his view, it is “absolutely a vital religious freedom”.
He went on to say that if the two women lose their case, the law will be changed to make clear that people can wear religious symbols at work.
This does appear to guarantee a successful outcome for them.
Should they lose the appeal, the Government is “on the hook” to introduce legislation; win the appeal and the UK Courts would have to take the decision into account (though introducing legislation
would provide greater
The cases are due to be heard in Strasbourg in early September.
For more details call Michelle Fox, Employment Partner at Ashfords LLP, on 01823-232305 or email firstname.lastname@example.org