We all have our cross to bear
Padraig Reidy: Nadia Eweida's case is another example of the clash of secular and religious life and laws
19 Jan 10

Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty is today supporting the appeal of British Airways employee Nadia Eweida, who was suspended from work after refusing to remove or conceal a crucifix she wore in contravention of uniform guidelines. While Eweida is now back at work, she is appealing a decision by the employment tribunal that wearing a crucifix was not required by her Christian faith, and therefore stopping her wearing it did not constitute a breach of her rights to freedom of conscience and religion.

Chakrabarti says:

This fundamentally misunderstands the idea of individual rights and freedoms, which do not depend on how many people agree with your conscience or speech. It also opens up secular courts to lengthy arguments as to what is a theological necessity. Making windows into men’s souls is as pointlessly complex as it is dangerous.

The “secular courts” point here is one echoed on the Today programme this morning by former Home Secretary John Reid, who is also supporting Eweida.

But if secular courts are not to ultimately adjudicate in cases like this, who is? Religious courts?

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.