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Ruling due on Exeter Christian nurse Shirley Chaplin

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: January 14, 2013

By Emma McFarnon

Shirley Chaplin

The ECHR ruling on the case of Shirley Chaplin is expected at 9am tomorrow

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will rule tomorrow whether an Exeter nurse was discriminated against at work after being told she could no longer wear a cross.

Shirley Chaplin took her case to the Strasbourg court in September last year after being told in 2009, after a 30-year career on the wards at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, she could no longer wear a crucifix around her neck.

The ward sister was told the necklace for the cross breached health and safety guidelines.

She was taken off frontline duties and given a desk job after she refused to put the cross under her uniform.

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In April 2010 an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled against her because it said Christians “generally did not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion”.

Ms Chaplin later took early retirement, claiming her employer breached a right to wear a cross at work.

With support from Christian Concern charity, she and three other Christians took the case to the Strasbourg court where judges considered whether the British Government is failing to protect the rights of Christians.

The British government is fighting the cases, arguing because crosses are not a “requirement” of the Christian faith, employers can forbid the wearing of such symbols and fire workers who insist on doing so.

Ms Chaplin was joined by Gary McFarlane, a relationships counsellor dismissed for gross misconduct for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation after saying he might have a conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to a same-sex couple on account of his Christian faith.

The case also involves Nadia Eweida, a Pentecostal Christian from Twickenham who was sent home by her employer British Airways in 2006 after refusing to remove a necklace with a cross.

Registrar Lilian Ladele, who was disciplined after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies in north London, is the fourth Christian involved in the case.

The Christian Legal Centre is directly supporting Ms Chaplin and Gary McFarlane.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "These are landmark cases and we have waited a long time to get to this point.

“At stake is not only the future shape of Christian involvement in community life but the protection of important personal freedoms in a diverse society."

Judgement in the landmark cases of Ms Chaplin and the three other Christians is expected from the European Court of Human Rights tomorrow at 9am UK time (10am Central European Time).

Timeline of event leading up to the ruling:

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  • Nippie  |  January 14 2013, 6:27PM

    To me there is no case to answer. I was a nurse for 40+ years. A cross or any other adornment is not part of the uniform and therefore has never been allowed to be worn on a nurses uniform. Even when I was a cadet in the St John Ambulance Brigade we were not aloud to wear any jewellery. Apart from these reasons, neckwear, wrist wear, rings etc are without doubt a health and safety issue, both to the nurse but also the patients. Standards in hospitals and the nursing profession have become far too lax.

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