Monday, September 21, 2009 – A devout Christian nurse has been told to stop wearing a cross around her neck – as it could be dangerous. Shocked Shirley Chaplin, 54, faces the sack unless she obeys the health and safety order.
She has worn the one-inch silver cross necklace since her confirmation 38 years ago – and has worked at the same hospital for 31 years. But now bosses claim it could be a risk to patients or to Shirley if someone tried to grab it.
The nurse said no one had EVER reported an injury caused by a necklace to the Health and Safety Executive.
She added: «I can’t explain how important the cross is to me. Being told to take it off has completely and utterly shaken me. I don’t want to have to decide between my faith and my job. My Christian faith is what motivates me to care for others.
«I’m distressed and confused at their attitude. I’ve worn it for years and now, at the end of my career, I’m told to take it off. I feel I’m being bullied and victimised because of my faith. They are prepared to make allowances for other faiths, but not for Christianity.»
Muslim nurses are allowed to wear headscarves at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
The NHS trust sent a letter in June ordering Shirley to remove or hide the cross.
She was taken off duty in July and last month bosses said she faces suspension, which could lead to the sack. Shirley was told she could switch to an admin role – but that could affect her pension.
The married mum of two, of Kenn, Devon, is taking the hospital to an employment tribunal, claiming she has been targeted because of her faith. Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, which advised her, called the NHS demand «astonishing».
She added: «You cannot separate a person’s faith from other areas of their life, including work. Unfortunately an aggressive politically correct agenda is being driven in the NHS and other public sectors. It is leading to case after case of discrimination against Christians and real suffering.»
But a spokesman for the trust said Shirley was the first staff member to refuse to follow its uniform policy.
He added: «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.»