Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cross Purposes: I’ve been following the controversy in the U.K. over a dispute between British Airways and one of its employees with interest. In short, BA bars uniformed employees from wearing hanging jewelry—necklaces, in essence—outside their uniforms, ostensibly because of the risk that they will get tangled in luggage, etc. The employee in question, Nadia Eweida, sought an exception for a Christian cross, claiming that since Muslims can wear veils and Sikhs turbans, she should be able to display her cross.

I happen to think that BA should be a little flexible here: whatever point it’s trying to prove is probably not worth the trouble. But the notion that this is an issue of religious freedom—or “a blatant act of religious oppression,” as the reliably hysterical Daily Mail would have it—is ridiculous.

In a free society, people have a right to exercise their religion, but there is nothing in the tenets of Christianity that says wearing a cross publicly (Eweida was told she could wear it under her uniform, but refused) is essential to the practice of the faith. This is not a dispute about the religious freedom but the right to proselytize on behalf of that religion in the workplace.

But it’s a fairly mild and inoffensive form of proselytizing, and as I’ve said, I think the goodwill BA would have earned for allowing it would have outweighed the cost in defending a principle.


  • At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a passenger, I cannot imagine being offended by - or even noticing - a religious symbol being worn by a member of the cabin crew, be they Christian, Islamic or something else.

    If anything, I think I would be pleased and reassured that the people whose real sole function is to get me out if anything goes wrong have a religion - the basis of all which is placing a value on human life.

    As a passenger, I feel disturbed that cabin crew are upset about things like being allowed to wear crosses. I would prefer BA to relax about such matters.

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