UK. January 25, 2007. British Airways, which had banned employees from wearing crosses on necklaces but had endorsed hijabs and turbans for Muslims, is changing its policies to allow those tiny emblems of Christianity, according to a report.
The report from the BBC said the airline had considered allowing the crosses only on lapel pins, but ultimately decided that wouldn`t be satisfactory.
The issue arose last year when Nadia Eweida, a check-in worker at Heathrow Airport, challenged a company rule against wearing a cross necklace that was visible. The changed policy now will allow religious symbols on items such as lapel pins and will include "some flexibility for individuals to wear a symbol of faith on a chain," according to the report.
British Airways said earlier that the Muslim garb could be visible since those items could not be worn underneath clothing, but that argument was condemned by both politicians and bishops in the United Kingdom.
It even attracted the attention of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who told airline officials that they should "do the sensible thing."
Eweida has been on unpaid leave since September because she wouldn`t stop wearing her cross, and she told the BBC that she`s going to return to work as she always worked.
"My dignity has been restored. I`ve suffered for my faith," she told the network.
The airline blamed the problem on following anti-discrimination laws to the letter, and said it never intended a discriminatory policy against Christians. The report said the airline talked with staff members, customers, the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim Council of Britain prior to announcing the change.
"Unintentionally, we have found ourselves at the center of one of the hottest social issues in current public debate," Willie Walsh, the chief British Airways said. "Most of those consulted felt that a lapel pin was an acceptable and reasonable option. For the majority of our staff, this was the preferred option. However, some respondents believed that limiting the change to a pin would not satisfy all Christians."
"I am grateful that BA have listened to the deep concerns that have been expressed about this issue and that their change of policy now allows Christians to wear crosses openly," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the BBC.
"Praise the Lord!" was the reaction from Archbishop of York John Sentamu.
The Daily Mail reported earlier Eweida, who has an unblemished record during seven years at BA, was suing her employer for religious discrimination after being suspended from work without pay.
Eweida, 55, from Twickenham, told the paper: "I will not hide my belief in the Lord Jesus. British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf, Sikhs to wear a turban and other faiths religious apparel."