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BAcking BA Nov 23

I’ve flown British Airways a few times recently and the flights were cheap and very pleasant, so I would have no intention of boycotting them over their ban on visible crucifixes even if I didn’t think their position was reasonable – but, as it happens, I mostly do.

They seem to have bent over backwards to allow the employee in question, Nadia Eweida, to wear her cross: they told her it was fine to wear it under her uniform and offered her alternative work where she wouldn’t need to wear the uniform at all, but she insists that she should be allowed to wear it – because religion apparently deserves special treatment.

“It is important to wear it to express my faith so that other people will know that Jesus loves them.”

Oddly enough, when I fly I’d like the cabin crew to keep me safe and provide me complimentary food that isn’t too cardboardy. I don’t fly for reassurance that a particular religious icon is rooting for me. It wouldn’t be acceptable for Ms Eweida to hand out copies of the Watchtower with the inflight magazine, so why should she tell get to me Jesus loves me in other ways?

Now, that said, I have no objection to people expressing their religious beliefs and it makes little difference to me whether BA’s uniform allows jewellery or not – interesting, and here’s where I do disagree with BA, they “accepted the cross was not jewellery”. But a uniform code is a uniform code and it’s the expectation the religion should be a special case that I object to. To take a facetious example given today’s date, I watch Doctor Who more often than many people who tick “Christian” on the census go to church, but would I have a leg to stand on if I worked for BA and wanted to wear a Davros badge on my uniform (to show people that Terry Nation loves them, perhaps)? Of course not.

Update: Joe Otten has written a typically thoughtful post on the same issue. I’m inclined to agree with him that British Airways’ best way of avoiding this sort of issue is to be less restrictive full stop, but I do think that, from a marketing point of view, their uniform does have a role to play in promoting them as a “quality” brand.

7 Responses

  1. Ah – but the point is BA allow other faiths to have visible totems of their beliefs. They’re only barring Christians from displaying totems. I suspect they have some other reason for wanting shot of this women because come the next appeal, then dismissal, she will win the inevitable industrial tribunal because – shock, horror – there’s a law against religious discrimination in this country now, which BA are more than aware of. Smoke and mirrors

  2. 2

    They do, but these, such as headscarves (which, as I understand it, are more about concealment than promotion of a religion, although I’m prepared to be corrected), can’t be hidden under clothing. A policy that such items should be worn under the uniform when they can be is not discriminatory.

  3. 3

    I fail to see how anyone can argue that religious devotion is more important (and thus granted more legal protection) for one faith than another. This issue isn’t about dress code, it’s about religious discrimination inherent in the dress code.

  4. 4

    Make everyone wear headscarves.

    I know that sounds facetious, and it is facetious, but it’s also pretty much the only way to avoid having religious discriminiation in a dress code.

    Or how about persuading teenagers that wearing a headscarf pisses off adults? The result is that they become fashionable, and err no that wouldn’t work because there would be accusations of “taking the piss”.

    Oh I don’t know.

    I do know that Terry Nation doesn’t love you, but he wants your money before you can get your hands on his daleks.

  5. 5

    Iain: There would be discrimination if onliy Muslims were allowed to wear headscarves (I don’t know if this is the case) or only Christians were allowed to wear visible crosses (and the visible bit is important) but they relate to different parts of the uniform and to different types of religious attire, some of which can’t be concealed. I imagine BA would also argue that burqa wouldn’t be in keeping with their uniform. I do think it’s important that if Christian staff are eventually allowed to wear visible crosses, non-Christian staff should also be able to wear similar jewellery.

    Alan: I did, in a similarly facetious moment, ponder the same thing…

  6. One of her points was that Sikhs are allowed to wear bracelets representing their religion, which are visible, but are permitted under the dress code.

  1. […] In other news, Robert Sharp is cross about all the fuss that got up about crosses. Over at No Geek is an Island, however, Will is inclined to back BA. The Flying Rodent, meanwhile, investigates the archives of the London Evening Standard (circa 1897). Won’t somebody please think of the poor vampire hunters? […]