Thursday, November 23, 2006

Christianity abolished by BA. Dawkins influence suspected'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.

2. Er...

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.


UPDATE: It appears there is also a health and safety reason for not allowing dangling jewellery near moving conveyor belts.

5 comments: said...

If there is some censorship it is generally self-censorship. This is what is so disappointing.

No Government or even, probably, any local authority diktat actually censors Christian worship. It's poor confused officials who don't know what is expected of them so err on the side of (over-)caution and ban totally reasonable expressions of faith.

The sad thing is that this is caused not by legislation or fiat, but by a misinterpretation of philosophical arguments by those who seek to challenge every traditional belief merely because they associate tradition with everything they hate.

It is a shame that the traditions that invented liberalism are undermined, and that poor individuals at the coalface try to live up to the received wisdom of the day.

Joe Otten said...


I agree there are a lot of confused people around, who don't know what is offensive and what isn't. But I am not convinced that anything much has been banned. Can you give me some examples?


Will said...

I'm concerned about any situation where a company is arbitrating what is and is not a religious requirement, particularly when it is so subjective. I do think there is a difference between the perceived need to cover the head of some Muslim women and the desire by the woman in this case to promote her faith to others.

And I celebrate Christmas happily, just not the Christian one...

Joe Otten said...


I agree it is difficult if not impossible to arbitrate other people's religious requirements. This would suggest either that anybody should be able to do anything they want, if they say it is a religious requirement; or no concessions should be made to religion at all.

My instinct is to chicken out of this dilemma by not having such restrictive uniform policies in the first place.

Yes, the lady in question was seeking to promote, to "witness" to her faith, and doubtless she would argue that the bible instructs christians to do this. It doesn't say so much how they should do it, and perhaps we would rather she wore a cross, than started talking to the customers: "Did you pack this bag yourself? And have you let Jesus into your heart?"

Lance Duval said...

BA are notoriously anal about all kinds of regulations. My last brush with BA involved them refusing to fly me and my heavily pregnant wife back after a 1 week break because BA in portugal had slightly different regulations than BA in England. They were seriously intending to leave us stranded thousands of miles from home.

On the other hand this lady did get a job in the full knowledge that it was a "uniformed role" - and unfortunately, thats the thing about uniforms. Those that impose them on employees are generally not happy with them being accessorised.

As far as I am aware, BA have no problem with concealed jewlery or jewelry worn out of working hours.

The turban issue is harder to deal with. Why can one group be allowed to wear a turban, and others not? BA have dealt with this by making a turban an optional but official part of the uniform. St John's Ambulence, McDonalds and other groups that have unoformed staff take the same approach.