Church of England slams court ruling allowing crucifix ban at work

The Church of England has slammed a European Court of Justice ruling which lets employers ban workers from wearing Christian crosses and other religious symbols to work, saying the court's finding would interfere with the right to exercise religious freedom.

(REUTERS / Sucheta Das)A Christian holds a crucifix during prayer at Missionaries of Charity in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta on October 19, 2003.

Samira Achbita, a Belgian Muslim working at security firm G4S, filed a discrimination complaint with the court after the company ordered her not to wear her Islamic headscarf at work. However, the court ruled against her, saying the policy was not discriminatory as it applied to all religions, The Telegraph details.

For the Church of England, the court ruling is "troubling" and added that such blanket bans may interfere with individual rights. Rt Revd Nicholas Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, also released a statement saying the judgment raises issues on both freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

"This judgment once again raises vital questions about freedom of expression, not just freedom of religion, and shows that the denial of freedom of religion is not a neutral act, contrary to how it might be portrayed," said Baines.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May also questioned the European court's ruling. During a question-and-answer session, she expressed doubt on the judgment and asserted that women have the right to dress the way they want, Premier reports.

May acknowledged that there are times when women are asked to remove their veil, such as in courts or in matters concerning border security. Nevertheless, the British prime minister said the government is not supposed to dictate what women can or cannot wear.

Islamic Human Rights Commision head of research Arzu Merali also slammed the judgment, saying it would legitimize hate campaigns against Muslims.

European law experts, on the other hand, explained that the court ruling only means employers have to take extra care with their dress codes to avoid such controversies. According to University of Warwick professor Alan Neal, blanket rules should be implemented "generally."

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