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Crucifix nurse loses tribunal

By This is Devon  |  Posted: April 07, 2010

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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.

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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.

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    Sally, Exeter  |  April 08 2010, 2:01PM

    What a selfish woman! This has cost the tax payer so much money and could have been used to address more profound issues such as, better staffing levels, more equipment, patient care. Plus the time it took staff to deal with this. How Christian of her!! In my experience the NHS do not discriminate against religious faiths of any kind. This was a health and safety issue and it is part of NHS policy, she was given other alternatives on numerous occasions which other NHS staff find suitable...why should it be any different for her. Lets face it everyone is quick to put down the NHS for their hygiene and safety issues, when they enforce them they are met with idiots like this. I don't think religion is anything to do with wearing a crucifix, its about beliefs and values, not items! She deserved to lose this. Lets hope she can get over herself and concentrate on what really matters and that's the people she is supposed to be caring for.

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    K Searle, Exeter  |  April 07 2010, 8:45PM

    Shirley Chaplain has made herself a martyr, aided and abetted by the sinister Christian Legal Centre, and supported by people as ill-informed and ignorant (see Dee of Croydon.) Her cross was NOT banned; her chain was. She was given the opportunity to wear her cross as a broach, or to wear a T-shirt under her uniform in which to tuck her chain. She took neither option but stubbornly persisted with her failed campaign for special treatment. As for the laughable claim that the Trust somehow 'persecutes' Christians, please bear in mind that it spends tens of thousands of taxpayers money each year employing Christian chaplains and maintaining a chapel for Christain services.

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    Vlad the Impala, Haldon Hill  |  April 07 2010, 8:34PM

    I know train-loads of christians who don't wear crosses (my late parents were christians and didn't either). It is clearly not a religious requirement. So this is an unjustified demand for special treatment. We all have to obey rules at work - even christians. Mrs Chaplin should think seriously about whether she is being exploited by the Christian Legal Centre. They failed in a similar case with an airline employee who also tried to get round a ban on jewelry around the neck and who lost her job as a result of their advice.

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    Jo, Devon  |  April 07 2010, 8:26PM

    Comments from recent patients - nurses laughing and talking all night so that they couldn't sleep, nurses playing computer games, nurses smoking outside whilst a patient collapsed, wife being told of husband's death only when she turned up at visiting time, patient left unwashed for a week, nurse's answer to enquiry - 'How should I know' ......If only crucifixes were the only problem...!

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    George Morrison, Scotland  |  April 07 2010, 8:01PM

    What is this country coming to ? If this woman wants to wear it, so what ? Does it affect her ability to do her job - Doubt it ! I have had people from all cultures / beliefs looking after my welfare while in hospital, and I have never even thought anything about what jewellery they are wearing ! Most important thing is that they help you get well ! Absolute disgrace that anyone has a problem with her .

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    Dee, Croydon  |  April 07 2010, 8:01PM

    WTF!!!!! I am not religious at all but why was this woman discriminated against when all these f****in foreigners come here building there communities/religions and are given special rights!!!!! Britain is a Christian country so why can this woman not practice her religion in her own country?????

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    Rob, Polsloe, Exeter  |  April 07 2010, 6:30PM

    What a selfish woman, surely the cost of the tribunal and the defense by Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Trust Hospital is costing the hospital money which could have been used to treat patients, hardly showing true Christian values.

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    kate, devon  |  April 07 2010, 6:07PM

    thought jesus wasn't on the cross anymore and had risen etc.......why would you want to promote keeping him on there if you are christian???.........a piece of jewelry doesn't make you a christian or make people think you are, its your actions..........which don't seem too good atm

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    mary, exeter  |  April 07 2010, 5:08PM

    i find it really hard to believe this womans attitude, as a practising christian i overcame the health and safety issue of a cross on a chain, and had a tattoo of our lords son on the cross tattoed on my left breast, maybe this could be an option.

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    john, London  |  April 07 2010, 3:35PM

    I dont want to be subjected to the disturbing sight of this womens extreme religious convictions if I`m in hospital with already enough real world health concerns to worry about. I am nonreligious as mosdt people in this country are.