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Sunday, 14 February 2010 06:24

Twickenham MP Vince Cable 'disappointed' by ruling in Nadia Eweida case

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3:49pm Friday 12th February 2010
By Chris Wickham

Twickenham's MP has been left saddened and disappointed after a constituent lost a Court of Appeal ruling the wearing of a cross at work.

Nadia Eweida, from Strawberry Hill, was told in 2006 she could not wear the Christian symbol around her neck while working at Heathrow as a check-in operator for British Airways (BA).

Ms Eweida, of Strawberry Hill Close, was sent home when she refused to remove the cross on September 20, 2006, and was off work without pay until February 2007.

She lost an employment tribunal and a subsequent employment appeal tribunal (EAT) and was today told by a trio of appeal judges - Lord Justice Sedley, Lord Justice Carnworth and Lady Justice Smith - her appeal against the decision by the EAT in November 2008 had been dismissed.

Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham, said: "I’m very disappointed, both for her personally and for the basic issue of principle which we are fighting for along with [human rights campaign group] Liberty, the freedom of religious expression of people doing no harm to anyone else."

Ms Eweida appealed on the basis the EAT erred in stating BA did not religiously discriminate against her indirectly but Lord Justice Sedley, in the judgement, said the evidence offered by her team failed a series of "tests" on whether she was indirectly discriminated against and dismissed the appeal.

Dr Cable said he hoped the case could be taken to the Supreme Court but when the judgement was handed down permission to do so was refused.

"It does look like the end of the road," he admitted.

"Liberty feel sufficiently strongly that British freedom has been compromised to try and go to the Supreme Court.

"It is very sad.

"It really does undermine basic religious freedom - Liberty and I are concerned that in future anyone who wishes to display their religious freedom at work is not allowed to do so, it’s entirely at the discretion of the employer."

Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury, said: "This is a sad blow both to her personally, and the cause of religious liberties and freedoms.

"Her courage and endurance have been an inspiration to so many of us.

"Sadly, the failure of this appeal is likely to lead to further cases of religious discrimination.

"I believe it is not an exaggeration to say that people of faith are facing particular hardship in a period where different freedoms and rights are being tested against each other."

Ms Eweida was told she would have to pay BA’s costs for the case but it is not yet known how much that will be.

Liberty is hopeful it will be at a level where her supporters can meet the financial burden.

Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer, who represents Ms Eweida, said: "This is a disappointing judgement that will do little to build public confidence in equality laws protecting everyone.

"But this is just the sort of case that a Supreme Court is for and we have every hope that the highest court in the land will put Britain's long tradition of religious tolerance into modern legal practice."

Dr Cable added: "If there is a way of taking it to the Supreme Court, we will."

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