...you'd think wouldn't you, listening to the hyperbole.
But I've just seen a BA manager on Newsnight who was confident there was no discrimination going on and was apparently oblivious to the degree of outrage that has been whipped up.
So what is going on?
1. BA have a uniform policy of no jewellery around the neck outside the clothes.
3. That's it.
They do not ban turbans, for example, because turbans are a religious requirement, and to do so would discriminate against Sikhs. Crosses are not a religious requirement for Christianity, so there is no need, on discrimination grounds, for making caveats to the uniform policy to allow them.
Of course I would prefer that airlines and other companies didn't have anal uniform policies at all, but that doesn't seem to be the prevailing opinion in the corporate image department. So if the question is, why shouldn't people be allowed to wear a cross, the answer is of course that they should be, that BA are a bunch of muppets. Because their uniform policy is anal, not because it is discriminatory.
This is not a religious issue, as the BA manager kept insisting, thousands of christians work for BA and are happy with the uniform. Yet there was something pathetic about his insistence. This issue has more momentum than an unreasonable but non-discriminatory intent can stamp on.
Why does it have this momentum? Because there is a mass movement behind the narrative that Christianity is discriminated against in this country, that up and down the country militant atheists are banning Christmas, promoting teen pregnancy and tolerating gays.
It is a pervasive narrative. Last year Nick Clegg's Christmas cards to constituents didn't mention Christmas - because we weren't confident they would be delivered in time for Christmas. This year they will mention Christmas. To some of our members this has been quite a big deal. Make them proper Christmas cards, they said, it matters to us, you really won't offend anyone. And I agree. It won't offend (hardly) anyone. The offensiveness of Christmas is as mythical as the discrimination against Christianity.
But every year, we have a silly season of stories about some local authority or other buying fewer christmas lights than the previous year; that a whole city isn't allowed to say the word Christmas, based on some memo a pen pusher sent in 1997; that some christmas-related activity or other has been discontinued - even if this bucks the trend.
Normally all this impinges most on civil society, and perhaps it has passed the busy hardnosed people of BA by somewhat. They need to factor in to their business plan the possibility of fashionable hysteria. Doubtless they will give in. Doubtless before long wearers of other jewellery will demand equal treatment. And if that loosens up uniform policy in general, I can cheer that.
Tag: British Airways
UPDATE: It appears there is also a health and safety reason for not allowing dangling jewellery near moving conveyor belts.