Derek Timms

Derek Timms, a chaplain from Solihull, was told by a Methodist minister at his workplace to remove the small cross pin he had worn for 4 years as it might ‘offend’ patients.

Derek, a businessman turned chaplain, was told he would face consequences and would need ‘re-training’ if he refused to remove a half-inch pin with a cross on it from his jumper. Having lost his wife earlier this year, Derek wears the cross not only as a manifestation of his faith, but also in memory of his marriage.

However, as a chaplain at a Marie Curie charity branch in Solihull, Derek was told in an email by the Methodist minister overseeing the chaplaincy that he must not wear the cross as it might ‘offend’ and create ‘barriers’ with patients. This was despite the fact that Derek had been wearing the miniature cross at Marie Curie for four years without any complaints.

With support from the Christian Legal Centre, Derek wrote to the Methodist minister, stating: “I have searched the Marie Curie Solihull website, policy documents, the NHS website and nowhere can I find where there is a written policy which prohibits the wearing of crosses in my specific situation or why it is prohibited.”

His letter was then escalated to the Marie Curie regional office, which then apologised ‘unreservedly’ for the stress that this put Derek through, confirming that he was free to wear his cross. The regional office responded: “I can confirm that currently we have neither an organisational or uniform policy that would support our recent request to remove your cross while supporting patients and families in the Hospice. I apologise unreservedly for the distress that we have caused.”

Derek responded to the apology: “I was shocked and hurt by how I was treated. There was and is no need to suppress the symbol of the cross and in so doing send a message that the Christian faith needs to be neutralised or removed entirely from a chaplaincy front line service. If I had given in, I believe I would have been saying that I am embarrassed to be a Christian.

“From experience, by wearing my cross, patients trust me, they might not have my faith or belief, but they trust me. I always meet people ‘where they are’ whether they are a Muslim or atheist, and it has always been a privilege for me to support people at the toughest moments in their lives.

“I welcome and appreciate the apology from Marie Curie but believe my work as a chaplain now lies elsewhere.”

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