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Sunday, December 4, 2016
Anglican bishops protest as nurse is banned from wearing cross
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Six Anglican bishops have written to a national  newspaper today to protest over the case of a veteran nurse who has been banned from wearing a cross on a chain around her neck while she is at work.

Shirley Chaplin is  taking the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust to an Employment Tribunal on Monday, 29 March.

Nurse Chaplin, who is approaching retirement age and has cared for thousands of patients over 30 years, was told by the NHS Trust to remove the cross she first wore at her confirmation service more than 40 years ago. She refused, and is currently banned from working with patients.

In Today's Telegraph, the bishops write: "She has worn the cross every day since her confirmation as a sign of her Christian faith, a faith which led to her vocation in nursing, and which has sustained her in that vital work ever since.

"It would seem that the NHS trust would rather lose the skills of an experienced nurse and divert scarce resources to fighting a legal case, instead of treating patients.

"The uniform policy of the NHS trust permits exemptions for religious clothing. This has been exercised with regard to other faiths, but not with regard to the wearing of a cross around the neck.

They say: "Furthermore, Mrs Chaplin has been informed that the Court requires evidence of the fact that Christians wear crosses visibly around the neck. It cannot be right that judges are unaware of such a basic practice."

"This is yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian community are being treated with disrespect. We are deeply concerned at the apparent discrimination shown against Christians and we call on the Government to remedy this serious development.

"In a number of cases, Christian beliefs on marriage, conscience and worship are simply not being upheld. There have been numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country. We believe that the major parties need to address this issue in the coming general election.

"The cross is ubiquitous in Christian devotion from the earliest times and clearly the most easily recognisable Christian symbol. For many Christians, wearing a cross is an important expression of their Christian faith and they would feel bereft if, for some unjustifiable reason, they were not allowed to wear it. To be asked by an employer to remove or "hide" the cross, is asking the Christian to hide their faith."

They conclude: "Any policy that regards the cross as 'just an item of jewellery' is deeply disturbing and it is distressing that this view can ever be taken."

The letter is signed by: Most Rev Lord Carey of Clifton, Former Archbishop of Canterbury; Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester; Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester; Rt Rev Peter Forster; Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford; Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn.

A hospital spokesman said the cross had been banned for health and safety reasons - not religious ones. "A patient could grab a chain and cause injury" he said.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "We hope that the Trust and those representing Ms Chaplin will genuinely seek to resolve this case in her interests without delay.

"Safety concerns about the wearing of crosses can easily be met with breakable chains but freedom of thought, conscience and religion should bind people of all faiths and none together." She warned: "There are many who seek to create divisions in society and irrational bureaucracy plays into their hands".

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Tags: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, Former Archbishop of Canterbury;Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt, Lord Carey of Clifton, Shami Chakrabarti, Shirley Chaplin


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