Saturday, November 25, 2006

BA and the offence of the cross

Cranmer is delighted by the news that British Airways has agreed to review its policy on uniforms in the wake of the Nadia Eweida affair. The millions they have spent on honing their corporate image have been flushed down the lavatory by the damage to their reputation caused by this issue. Had they been wise, they would simply have turned a blind eye. In the event, a minor internal issue of uniform policy became a global point of contention, with a growing movement calling for a boycott of the company. With pressure from comments made by senior politicians, clerics, and even the United Nations, BA had no choice but to reconsider. The Church of England was a key contributor to this debate, and gratitude is due to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London. And on Friday, a little later than most, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams woke up to the significance of this issue, saying: ‘If BA is really saying or implying that the wearing of a cross in public is a source of offence, then I regard that as deeply offensive.’ British Airways may not have been as much persuaded by the theology of this objection as by the news that consultations had begun on a possible disinvestment of the church's £10.25m shares in the company.

When this issue was first brought to his attention, Cranmer contacted BA’s chief executive, Mr Willie Walsh, who responded as follows:

Dear Dr Cranmer,

Thank you for contacting us about our staff wearing religious symbols.

British Airways does not have a policy that bans such symbols but, like many companies whose employees need to wear a uniform, we do have a dress code.

Our staff are allowed to wear crosses on chains or any other similar items whether religious or not, but these must be worn beneath their uniform. Some religious symbols – such as turbans and hijabs - can be worn openly as they cannot be placed under uniforms.

This policy has been in place for many years and ensures that our uniform standards remain consistent. The media coverage refers to a serving employee who has not been suspended.

As this case is currently being investigated, we cannot comment further at this time.

He refused to answer Cranmer’s point about the Sikh kara. And neither was he prepared to engage in conversation about the fact that neither hijabs nor turbans are obligatory.

So, it now appears that BA is prepared to consider permitting religious symbols to be worn as lapel badges. The joy for Cranmer, in this postmodern age of subjective relativism, is that this will now open the floodgates. How will BA define religion? Theology? Longevity? Social acceptability? Number of adherents? By permitting the cross, BA must surely be obliged to permit its employees to wear lapel badges of Yoda, since (according to the 2001 census) Jedi Knights outnumber both Jews and Sikhs in the United Kingdom. He rather suspects this will create far more publicity than the cross…


Anonymous Voyager said...

Obviously companies such as BA will have to recruit managers who are culturally-sensitive to the countries in which they operate............and perhaps such "devout" Christians as Liam Fox, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron...........might wonder why their silence should be eloquent.

As for Nadia Eweida, she has apparently been a stalwart supporter of the Barnabas Fund helping Christians persecuted around the world, clearly her devotion has been reciprocated by The Fund, and that is gratifying as is her Union support and assistance

25 November 2006 at 13:01  
Blogger Joe Otten said...

The Kara is an obligation. The cross is not. There's your difference.

25 November 2006 at 14:25  
Anonymous Ulster Man said...

Rubbish, Joe Otten. The kara is not obligatory - it's a cultural thing, as much as a turban and a hijab. Cranmer's already explained all this, and he's not alone in knowledge of such things.

The point Cranmer makes about the Jedi is really the interesting part of this. In order to get the Police Service of Northern Ireland to increase its quota of Catholics, all non-Catholics were classified as Protestants (yes, Hindus, Sikhs, Mulsims are all Prods here!!). Even Jedi would be Protestant, so I can't wait till someone confronts BA with that religion!!

25 November 2006 at 14:53  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Joe Otten,

His Grace begs to inform you that the Sikh religion has no book of law; it is not a religion with a foundation of prescriptive legislation, unlike Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is a devotional work. It is only the Western mindset that seeks to impose upon this sub-continental manifestation the paradigm of its own understanding of religion.

25 November 2006 at 15:36  
Anonymous Colin said...



You and others took up the fight and won.
It is encouraging.

25 November 2006 at 15:43  
Blogger wrinkled weasel said...

Let us be heartened by the apparent victory and give due thanks to His Grace and others, like Iain Dale, who spoke out over this injustice. Somehow I feel this has emboldened Christians. Perhaps we will not be seen as such a soft target in the future.

26 November 2006 at 00:28  
Blogger Man in a shed said...

I was on a BA flight this week and couldn't help noticing that the inflight shopping magazine was selling crosses for jewlery. ( Didn't see any other relgious symbols ).

8 December 2006 at 13:15  

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