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IRD Commends The Church of England for Defending the Basic Right of Religious Expression

"Prohibiting a necklace with a cross sends a chilling message to members of any faith and stifles religious freedom, which is a non-negotiable human right." -- Ralph Webb, IRD Anglican Action Director


Contact: Loralei Coyle, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, lcoyle@ird-renew.org


WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 /Christian Newswire/ -- British Airways has been under international scrutiny for restricting a Christian employee from wearing a simple gold cross necklace, a symbol of her faith, in plain view around her neck. Nadia Eweida is on unpaid leave until the case is resolved. The Church of England has investments in British Airways and was initially quiet concerning the matter. However, they have finally spoken out in defense of Ms. Eweida and her right to wear a symbol of her faith.


IRD Anglican Action Director Ralph Webb commented:


"We commend Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for declaring that it is 'absolutely basic that people of any faith should have the right to display the signs of their faith commitment in public.' The right to freedom of religion is vital, and Nadia Eweida's cross does not impose the Christian faith on anyone.


"British Airways originally defended itself by saying that its uniform policy allows an employee to wear a cross underneath his or her uniform. This regressive policy is bewildering in our pluralistic age, and Archbishop of York John Sentamu rightly described it as 'nonsense.'


"Even more difficult to understand is the argument made by some people that Ms. Eweida should not wear a cross openly because Christianity does not require its adherents to wear a cross. This point of view suggests that a religious faith is something to be endured with unquestioning obedience, not followed out of the love and joy of which Ms. Eweida speaks.


"The Church of England is right to review whether to maintain its substantial investments in the airline, as Archbishop Williams has said is occurring. We are gratified that this review led British Airways to review its uniform policy. Prohibiting a necklace with a cross sends a chilling message to members of any faith and stifles religious freedom, which is a non-negotiable human right."


Faith McDonnell, IRD Religious Liberty Program director added:


"The majority of Anglicans in the world live in countries where there has been persecution for following Jesus Christ. They are surely on Archbishop Williams' mind when he defends Eweida's right to wear her cross.


"The symbolism of wearing the cross is very important to Christians from countries such as Egypt and other non-Western nations where Christians have been willing to be publicly identified as followers of Christ in spite of persecution and death. It is a not a fashion statement. It is a faith statement."