The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

THE EUROPEAN Union court’s de­ci­sion that com­pa­nies can ban em­ploy­ees from wear­ing re­li­gious sym­bols “will yet fur­ther po­larise, stoke re­sent­ment and cul­ti­vate dis­trust”, the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has warned.

On Tues­day, the European Court of Jus­tice ruled that pri­vate em­ploy­ers could or­der staff to re­move vis­i­ble re­li­gious sym­bols un­der cer­tain con­di­tions.

Rabbi Mirvis said: “This rul­ing will doubt­less em­bolden those who be­lieve that any pub­lic ex­pres­sion of one’s faith is to be de­plored, even in cases where that ex­pres­sion does not in­ter­fere with the rights of oth­ers.”

The rul­ing came after the court found that a Bel­gian com­pany which had an in­ter­nal com­pany pol­icy of ban­ning vis­i­ble re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal sym­bols had been en­ti­tled to dis­miss an em­ployee who re­fused to re­move her head­scarf.

The court stressed that com­pa­nies would avoid charges of dis­crim­i­na­tion only if a rule against the dis­play of re­li­gious sym­bols was writ­ten into their in­ter­nal reg­u­la­tions and, im­por­tantly, if it ap­plied to sym­bols across all faiths.

The court said in a state­ment: “An in­ter­nal rule of an un­der­tak­ing which pro­hibits the vis­i­ble wear­ing of any po­lit­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal or re­li­gious sign does not con­sti­tute di­rect dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

While the de­ci­sion was made in re­sponse to spe­cific cases con­cern­ing Is­lamic head­scarves, the fear is that it will now have se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions for European Jews.

Em­ploy­ees who wear kip­pot or Ma­gen David sym­bols, for ex­am­ple, could be sub­ject to the new rul­ing.

Rabbi Mirvis ad­vised: “In my view, the very best busi­nesses, of any size, are those who value the well­be­ing of their em­ploy­ees enough to re­spect their sin­cerely held re­li­gious be­lief and prac­tice. Those who choose not to af­ford their work­force even this most ba­sic of rights will be worse off as a re­sult.”

Rabbi Mirvis’s con­cerns were echoed by the United Sy­n­a­gogue, which said it was “greatly con­cerned about the pos­si­ble im­pli­ca­tion of the judg­ment on the many Jews who dis­play through wear­ing kip­pot or other sym­bols.”

Chief Rabbi Gold­schmidt, pres­i­dent of the Con­fer­ence of Euo­pean Rab­bis, who said the EU’s de­ci­sion “sends sig­nals to all re­li­gious groups in Europe”. He said: “With the rise of racially mo­ti­vated in­ci­dents and to­day’s de­ci­sion, Europe is send­ing a clear mes­sage: its faith com­mu­ni­ties are no longer wel­come.

“Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers need to act to en­sure that Europe does not iso­late re­li­gious mi­nori­ties and re­mains a di­verse and open con­ti­nent.”


Rabbi Mirvis

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