A NURSE who was moved to a desk job after refusing to remove her crucifix lost a claim for discrimination and called it a “a blow to all Christians”.
Shirley Chaplin, 54, took the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Trust Hospital to an employment tribunal, claiming that taking off a necklace bearing a crucifix would “violate her faith”.
The trust said the move was not specifically about the crucifix, but about health and safety concerns about patients grabbing necklaces.
Yesterday, employment tribunal panel chairman John Hollow found against Mrs Chaplin, who had worn the emblem throughout her 30 years as a nurse. Mr Hollow ruled the trust had acted in a “reasonable” manner in trying to reach a compromise.
He noted that wearing a crucifix was not a requirement of the Christian faith.
He said the hospital had treated staff from ethnic minorities equally by ordering Sikhs to remove wrist bangles and Muslim doctors to switch to tight fitting sports hijabs.
He said: “Mrs Chaplin was invited to consider various alternatives but was not prepared or able to agree to any of them. The hospital pursued a dialogue they hoped would lead to a resolution to the problem.
“That involved both sides moving their position to some extent. Sadly, the claimant didn’t feel able to do so to any extent at all.
“The hospital’s actions were not based on religion or belief but founded on the requirement to maintain health and safety of staff and patients.
“In our judgement the hospital was acting on guidance from the Department of Health and would have applied the policy to another person of a different religious persuasion.
“These findings bring this case to a conclusion, with some sadness for the claimant who has conducted herself with perfect sincerity in the beliefs she holds.”
After the case Mrs Chaplin said: “This is a blow not just for Christians working in hospitals but for all jobs and professions. I am not surprised at the result. It was one person taking on a Government.
“I don’t know what my future is at the hospital, just that I am planning to go to work as normal tomorrow.”
Her barrister Paul Diamond said the Christian Legal Centre will appeal the ruling.
In a 71-point statement, Mrs Chaplin, who wore the crucifix to the hearing in Exeter, said she was “personally convicted” to wear the emblem, given to her as a confirmation gift in 1971.
She started working for the trust continuously in 1989, being made a grade D nurse in 1994, and promoted to an E grade nurse on 2001.
Wearing the old uniform, the cross was visible and she wore it safely for 30 years, Mrs Chaplin said. When a new-style uniform was introduced, there were still no issues until she was asked to remove the necklace last summer.