The Church of England has said last week's European Court of Justice ruling - which allows employers to ban their workers from wearing religious or political symbols - raises "significant questions" about freedom of religion and its expression.

In a statement, a spokesman said that in "preferencing ‘freedom to conduct a business' above the free expression of faith, the ruling potentially places corporate interest above those of the individual". "The imposition of blanket bans – whilst often seeking honourable outcomes - may represent a worldview based on dogmatic or ideological assumptions which may unjustly limit individual rights.”

Rt Rev Nicholas Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, said the judgement "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".

"There is no neutral space. Furthermore, it illustrates how far we have to go as a secular society in working out what freedom of expression actually means.

He said it also illustrated the problem in a ‘rights culture’ of whose rights "take priority in the hierarchy when rights collide - and according to which criteria they should be judged". “There is clearly more work to be done in relation to religious literacy.”

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May said following the decision last week that it was not for government to decide what women can wear and that her government wanted to continue that "strong tradition of freedom of expression".

Under the ruling last week, the ECJ ruled that employers are not allowed to target particular religions but can have a general policy forbidding the wearing of religious symbols.