NHS worker loses Appeal over freedom to talk about her faith

Victoria Wasteney

A senior NHS occupational therapist, disciplined for ‘engaging in acts of proselytising’ by giving a Christian book to a Muslim colleague that was accepted but not read, has lost her appeal over an Employment Tribunal ruling against her today.

Following a hearing on October 5th last year, Judge Eady QC granted Victoria Wasteney permission to appeal, recognising the significance of Miss Wasteney's case in raising points of law of public importance. The Judge said that the Employment Appeal Tribunal should consider whether the original ruling had properly applied the European Convention on Human Rights' strong protection of freedom of religion and expression.

In April 2015, the Employment Tribunal had ruled that East London NHS Foundation Trust did not discriminate against Miss Wasteney by disciplining her for praying (with consent) for her colleague, handing her a Christian book and inviting her to church events. The NHS Trust suspended her for nine months while they investigated the complaints made against her. Despite evidence that her colleague reciprocated Miss Wasteney’s friendship and was happy to discuss faith, the Trust issued her with a first written warning.

However, in a judgment handed down today (7th April), Miss Wasteney’s appeal was denied by the Court. Reacting to the decision, Miss Wasteney said:

Victoria Wasteney “What the Court clearly failed to do was to say how, in today’s politically correct world, any Christian can even enter into a conversation with a fellow employee on the subject of religion and not, potentially, later end up in an Employment Tribunal.

"If someone sends you friendly text messages, how is one to know that they are offended? I had no idea that I was upsetting her. For example, I was sent the following text message by the Muslim complainant:-

'Hope your (sic) okay Victoria, your (sic) am (sic) amazing manager and a wonderful person, I hope you never feel otherwise!! Anyone that can’t see that is an idiot, see you tomorrow xx'

"The Appeal Tribunal said that my employer was entitled to believe the complainant rather than me, even though she never gave evidence in any internal hearing or at any court; what she said was never tested nor was she was ever put under cross examination and, in fact, left the employment of the Trust straight after making the complaint. The Court also ruled that the Tribunal was entitled to believe a written complaint rather than actual evidence in court which could be tested. I don’t think many right-minded people would think that is a fair or just way to try a case.

"I believe the NHS singled me out for discipline because Christianity is so disrespected.  Previously a Christian worship service that I set up for patients was closed down, but accommodation for Muslims to practise their faith wholly facilitated and encouraged ”.

Miss Wasteney is consulting her lawyers at the Christian Legal Centre as to how to respond to the judgment.

The treatment of Miss Wasteney raises serious concerns that political correctness in the NHS is stifling ordinary conversations about faith and damaging the development of healthy working relationships.  

Responding to the decision, Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting Miss Wasteney, said: 

Andrea Williams“Week by week Christians are marginalised, threatened, sidelined, sacked and disciplined simply for holding normal conversations about their faith which is held dear to them.

“The United Kingdom has a strong foundation rooted in Christianity which has brought us freedom and flourishing. The NHS and our Education System were started by Christians – motivated by their faith. Our legal system was founded on Christian values and yet we now see that it is one of the most liberal and anti-Christian legal systems in the Western world.

“We need a radical review of the balance of rights in this country which is skewed to favour religions and ideologies other than Christianity. This is ironic given that it is Christianity that has given our society freedom, tolerance and hospitality”.

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