Hallalujah! Cross-wielding zealot’s case comes unstuck
FAR from being the poor Christian victim whose religious sensitivities were cruelly stomped upon by British Airways when they told her to wear the symbol of her superstition under her uniform, Nadia Eweida was, in fact, an insensitive zealot who had no consideration for her colleagues.
That’s the nub of the verdict of an employment tribunal, to which Eweida complained after refusing to comply with BA’s rules on jewellery. She insisted of wearing a cross for all to see.
The tribunal, to which she complained, has just published its judgment – and not only did it kick out all her claims of religious discrimination and harassment, it also criticised her for her intransigence, saying that she:
… generally lacked empathy for the perspective of others … her own overwhelming commitment to her faith led her at times to be both naive and uncompromising in her dealings with those who did not share her faith.
One example of this was her insistence that she must never be required to work on Christmas Day, even though she had signed a contract that made it clear that she, like her colleagues, would be working in an operation that functions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and therefore required shift working and bank holiday working, too.
The tribunal commented:
[Eweida’s] insistence on privilege for Christmas Day is perhaps the most striking example in the case of her insensitivity towards colleagues, her lack of empathy for those without religious focus in their lives, and her incomprehension of the conflicting demands which professional management seeks to address and resolve on a near-daily basis.
Writing in the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society President, said:
Eweida and her Christian activist backers managed to foment such a backlash that BA was forced into changing the policy. Now she can wear her cross visibly, and the airline offered her Â£8,500 compensation and a return to her job, with her point successfully made. But no – she decided to continue pursuing the airline at the industrial tribunal. She was funded in her action by a rightwing religious law firm in Arizona called the Alliance Defence Fund, whose affiliated lawyer was Paul Diamond, a familiar figure in court cases demanding religious privilege.
The tribunal concluded:
The complaint of direct discrimination fails because we find that the claimant did not, on grounds of religion or belief, suffer less favourable treatment than a comparator in identical circumstances.
The tribunal also heard how Eweida’s attitude and behaviour towards colleagues had prompted a number of complaints objecting to her:
Either giving them religious materials unsolicited, or speaking to colleagues in a judgmental or censorious manner which reflected her beliefs; one striking example was a report from a gay man that the claimant had told him that it was not too late to be redeemed.
Indeed, points out Sanderson, the proselytising motivation of her desire to wear the cross over her uniform instead of underneath it was underlined when she said:
It is important to wear it to express my faith so that other people will know that Jesus loves them.