Since the Eweida group of cases was heard by the European Court in 2013, the position on religious discrimination in the UK has been settled. People are entitled to express their own personal religious beliefs within reason. If there is a clash with health and safety (Chaplin, the nurse with a crucifix) or an offence to the rights of others (Ladele, the civil servant who refused to conduct same sex civil ceremonies), then those manifestations will not be protected. If they cause no harm – like Ms Eweida’s wearing of a small cross on her British Airway’s uniform - then they will be permitted.
France, a republic born out of revolution against church and aristocracy, has a very different view. The French Constitution holds that “France is a secular Republic”.
Although many private employers in France have been required to justify a refusal to accommodate religious beliefs, last week, the European Court upheld that a public hospital was able to dismiss a patient liaison official for refusing to remove her head scarf. She had received warnings but had still not taken off the scarf. There was no risk to safety and the official was not proselytising. The overriding factor in the decision was the legally 'legitimate' aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of others and the principle of secularism in the provision of public services.
There is little doubt that this case would have been decided very differently in the UK and it is interesting to see how the European Court has managed to reach different conclusions due to the laws in place in different European jurisdictions.