During exchanges at Prime Minister’s Question Time, Mr Cameron was asked by David Davis MP about the case of Nadia Eweida, who has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights after being barred by British Airways from wearing a crucifix while working at Heathrow Airport.
Mr Davis told the PM that the airline’s refusal to allow Miss Eweida to wear her cross was a “disgraceful piece of political correctness” and asked why the Government was opposing her appeal. “I cannot believe the Government is supporting the suppression of religious freedom in the workplace, so what are we going to do in this case?”
In response, Mr Cameron said he that he was fully supportive of employees’ right to wear religious symbols at work, adding: “I think it is an absolutely vital freedom.”
He went on:
“What we will do is that if it turns out that the law has the intention [of banning the display of religious symbols in the workplace], as has come out in this case, then we will change the law and make clear that people can wear religious symbols at work.”
However the National Secular Society points out in its blog today:
“There is no ban on people wearing religious symbols at work but there is a right for employers to ask their staff to comply with uniform policies or health and safety regulations.
“It is unclear what legal change Mr Cameron is contemplating, if indeed he is contemplating making any change at all. Is he going to take away the right of employers to run their places of work according to their business needs? Is he going to suspend health and safety considerations if the person concerned claims to be a Christian?”
Nadia Eweida took her case to an Employment Tribunal after complaining that a manager had banned her wearing a small cross around her neck. When she refused to remove the cross, she was put on unpaid leave from her post at Heathrow airport.
BA amended its uniform policy in 2007 to allow staff to display a faith or charity symbol and Nadia Eweida returned to work. However, Eweida opted to pursue her case against BA at an Employment Tribunal, citing the original BA ruling as a form of religious discrimination against Christians.