Four Christians arguing for their right to religious freedom at work before the European Court of Human Rights yesterday were told by a British Government lawyer that they could simply resign if they felt restrictions imposed by their employer clashed with their beliefs.
All four are challenging rulings in British courts that they were not discriminated against on religious grounds. They include Coptic Christian Nadia Eweida, 60, who was sent home from her British Airways job in 2006 after refusing to remove a necklace with a small cross.
James Eadie QC, acting for the Government, told the Strasbourg court that the refusal to allow Ms Eweida and NHS nurse Shirley Chaplin to visibly wear a crucifix at work "did not prevent either of them practising religion in private".
He said Christians who faced restrictions of religious expression at work had the option of "resigning and moving to another job".
The QC also said that, unlike the Muslim headscarf for women, wearing a cross was not required by scripture.
James Dingemans QC, acting for Ms Eweida, questioned the value of a right to religious belief that could not be applied at work. "What value is a right that stops when [you] cross the threshold of work?" he asked.
Above: James Eadie QC speaking yesterday in Strasbourg