You are here

Christian nurse to sue for discrimination over ban on cross

22 September 2009

A Christian nurse, who wears a necklace with a small cross, is to sue the Royal Devon & Exeter hospital trust for religious discrimination.

Shirley Chaplin, aged 54 and only months away from her retirement, is being advised by the Christian Legal Centre.

Andrea Williams, founder of the CLC, said Chaplin had been transferred to an administrative role after talks yesterday, following her failure to comply with the hospital’s insistence that she wear the necklace, and the cross, inside her shirt.

She said Chaplin had now instructed the CLC to file a claim for religious discrimination against her employers at the employment tribunal.

The CLC advised Caroline Petrie, a nurse who was suspended by North Somerset PCT for offering to pray for a patient, then reinstated.

Williams said Chaplin, who has worked as a nurse for almost 30 years, had worn the cross every day of her life since she was confirmed, including wearing it openly.

She said that an “aggressive, secularist, politically correct agenda” was being pursued in the NHS and across the public sector.

“Those wanting to promote the agenda say that it is ‘neutral’ but manifestly it is not. This agenda is leading to case after case of discrimination against Christians and real suffering.”

Williams said Chaplin could lose her pension if she was disciplined. She said the nurse had written to ask if she could wear the cross pinned to her lapel, for health and safety reasons, but was told it could only be pinned inside her lapel.

A spokeswoman for the NHS trust said “no disciplinary action has been taken because we have endeavoured to be sensitive to personal choice”.

She went on: “Whilst it would be inappropriate due to employee confidentiality to discuss a named individual member of staff, our uniform and dress code policy does not allow our staff to wear necklaces, with or without anything attached to them.

“We have a duty of care towards our patients and our staff, and the trust considers the wearing of a necklace to be a risk, albeit small, within a clinical setting because patients, particularly those who may be confused, do sometimes grab for items when being moved.

“This policy was adopted after it was reviewed about 18 months ago with staff and union representatives.”

The spokeswoman said Chaplin was the first member of staff not to co-operate with a request to comply with the policy.

Categorised in:

Discrimination Local government The Bar