Therapist Suspended From Job in London After Praying for Muslim Colleague

A  Christian therapist in London claims she is a casualty of a subconscious culture of NHS hostility towards Christianity after being suspended for praying for a Muslim employee who encouraged her to talk about her faith.
 
Victoria Wasteney, Head of Occupational Therapy at the East London NHS trust, is appealing against her suspension and severe reprimand on grounds of religious discrimination and harassment.
 
"I fear I may have been entrapped by a colleague who encouraged me to discuss my faith, who willingly agreed that I could pray for her and who even accepted an invitation to a church charity event," says Miss Wasteney who led a team of 30 before she was summarily suspended for nine months following a complaint to the Trust by a junior Muslim co-worker.
 
On June 13, 2013, a complaint was made against Miss Wasteney by a newly-qualified Muslim colleague and the next day she was called before the Associate Director of Therapies when she was immediately suspended pending an investigation. A Disciplinary Tribunal later found her culpable of a) giving a Christian book ‘I dared to call him Father’ – the story of a Muslim girl converting to Christianity to the Complainant; b) placing her hand on the colleague’s knee whilst she prayed for her; and c) inviting the Complainant to her Church's charity events.  At the Tribunal the complainant did not give oral evidence which could be challenged.
 
"I've had an unblemished 15 year career and suddenly I am confronted with vague and unclear complaints by the Associate Director.  I didn't receive a written complaint until four months later.  Now my file shows a nine-month suspension and a Final Written Warning for simply responding in a loving and compassionate way to a young colleague who seemed genuinely interested in talking about my faith as a Christian," she says.

"For nine months I was made to feel I was a danger to my colleagues and the public despite no evidence of wrong-doing. I had email evidence clearly showing the Complainant wanted to come to my charity church event and I only put my hand on her knee in friendship after asking her permission while I prayed for her," says Miss Wasteney.

She believes the Trust took a one-sided, politically correct decision to punish her despite the fact that the Complainant had initiated discussions about faith and had never complained to her personally.  "I would have stopped praying immediately if I had thought I was distressing her in any way but faith was openly discussed and encouraged and welcomed by the Complainant."

Victoria Wasteney says Christian groups are required to fit around managerial arrangements in the Trust whereas, by contrast, joint staff and service-user Muslim fellowship meetings are always facilitated, regardless of any staffing issues. 

"There is undoubtedly a pattern of inequality of treatment of Christians and Muslims in the NHS.  Regardless of allocated break times, Muslim staff can pray five times a day, which I am not objecting to, but Christians are often denied time off on Sundays or permission to take breaks during their lunchtime for prayer or religious worship.  However, I never expected to be persecuted by the very Trust I have been dedicated to over the past seven years." 
 
Miss Wasteney is bringing her appeal under the Equality Act 2010 for discrimination and harassment on grounds of religion or belief.   She is supported in her Appeal by the Christian Legal Centre, which has instructed the leading Human Rights barrister, Paul Diamond, to represent her.
 
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre commented “The NHS was founded and inspired by Christian principles and precepts. Such heritage meant that the NHS was a model of how to deliver health care across the world; a place of safety, care, freedom and flourishing with a staff inspired by their chosen career. Sadly, this case, along with others,  demonstrates that today’s climate in the NHS is increasingly dominated by a suffocating liberal agenda that chooses to bend over backwards to accommodate certain beliefs but punishes the Christian”.

(source)

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