Nurse in ‘cross suspension’ case to file for discrimination

21 September 2009

A Christian nurse from Exeter, facing disciplinary action for simply wearing a necklace on which hung her Confirmation Cross, has, under duress, today accepted an offer of redeployment and has instructed lawyers to file an action at the Employment Tribunal for discrimination.

Shirley Chaplin, 54, having served as a nurse for nearly 30 years, was threatened with disciplinary action after refusing to remove a necklace bearing a Cross – a symbol of her deeply felt Christian faith. NHS bosses had insisted that the Cross must be removed from sight. Despite wearing the cross ever since studying to be a nurse, bosses at The Royal Devon & Exeter Trust Hospital ordered her to remove the personal item, deeming it a breach of uniform policy and a health risk to her and to patients.

Despite claiming no accident had been recorded in relation to the cross in nearly 30 years, or that any complaint had been made against her by a patient for wearing the religious item, or offering to sign a disclaimer absolving the Trust from any liability if she were injured by the one inch silver object, the Trust refused her ‘Risk Assessment’ evidence. The Trust insists that the Cross should not be visible.

Mrs. Chaplin claims the demand to remove her Cross has nothing to do with Health and Safety, but is an infringement of her Human Rights, and that of being able to express her faith, which has been her foundation and strength for nearly 30 years of serving members of the public through nursing. Mrs. Chaplin informed managers that necklaces were worn by other members of Staff and the Trust had promoted the hospital in photographs where staff were wearing jewellery, many staff wore visible medialert chains, and Muslim staff wore scarves, each of which had complied with their health and safety policy.

Mrs Chaplin said: “This blatant piece of political correctness amounts to the marginalising of employees’ personal human rights, a blanket ‘secularising and neutralising’ of the NHS intended to stop Christians from expressing their faith in the public services of the NHS.”  Today, September 21, the nurse was told she either accepted redeployment to non-nursing role or face the sack.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting Mrs Chaplin in her case said: “Today, a nurse who has faithfully served members of the public in Exeter with her professional skills was forced, under duress, to agree to stand down from nursing and take up an administrative  role, all because the Trust would not permit her to wear a Cross   the world-wide, recognised and cherished image of Christianity.

“Mrs Chaplin was left with no option other than to accept, but has today instructed us to file for action at the Employment Tribunal for discrimination by her employers.”

Mrs Chaplin has instructed barrister Paul Diamond to represent Mrs Chaplin.  Mr Diamond advised Caroline Petrie, the nurse who was suspended for offering to pray for a patient and then reinstated, and many other high profile Christian discrimination cases in recent years.

Find out more about Shirley Chaplin
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