Montreal man sues Air France, saying it didn't allow him to pray on flight

MONTREAL - A judge is to hear arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit against Air France in which a Montreal businessman claims the carrier and one of its employees denied his religious rights on a flight to Paris in April 1999.

Michael Chernack filed the lawsuit in September 1999, alleging he was ordered to stop praying at the back of the plane about two hours before the scheduled 7:30 a.m. arrival in Paris.

Describing himself as an observant Jew, Chernack said he was praying "in a barely audible and unobtrusive fashion" when he was approached by the chief flight attendant.

The flight attendant, identified in court papers as Joel Corneloup, is said to have told Chernack in French: "This is an airplane and not a place for occult practices; return to your seat immediately."

Chernack's suit states that what occurred "was intolerable and a gross violation of his fundamental right to practice his religion without fear of physical or verbal threats and abuse."

It states that Corneloup "acted in an extremely malicious, rude, aggressive and threatening manner."

The defendants acknowledged in a December 1999 statement that Chernack was asked to return to his seat because of company safety policy about keeping passageways clear.

They also argued that Quebec courts don't have jurisdiction in the case since the incident occurred outside Canadian territory on an aircraft registered in France with an employee who is a French citizen.