Another faith in the workplace controversy involving a West Country nurse, this time one in Exeter whose health trust asked her to stop wearing a crucifix on health and safety grounds. She's been wearing it for 30 years, without injury to patients, but the trust policy is 'no necklaces', so she's been taken off front line duties until she complies.
The Trust statement is here - it appears the policy was adopted 18 months ago, and it seems the nurse was only informed of it in June this year. Obviously not that crucial a policy then..... It does seem a little odd, given that there are plenty of other things patients can grab (stethoscopes, security tags, watches). It would be interesting to know what led to the review of policy in the first place, but it clearly wasn't this particular nurse or else this story would have happened in April 2008.
The Christian Legal Centre, who have taken up the case, point out that there's not one recorded incident of anyone in the NHS suffering injury from a necklace. The CLC has a fuller version of the story, including quotes from the nurse herself, and links to media reports. The Telegraphs story points out that other trusts are perfectly happy with the wearing of religious symbols, as a sign of diversity. The CLC are arguing that a secularist agenda is behind the policy/this particular application of it, but I'm not really sure that we need that level of rhetoric to get this sorted out sensibly.
It's certainly very easy to hide one agenda behind another: secularism behind health and safety, or refusing to publicise church events in a library/renaming Christmas, because you 'don't want to offend people of other faiths', who wouldn't have been offended anyway. There is a track record here, so the CLC may be wrong, but it's not unreasonable to be suspicious.
One of the issues is whether certain things are 'required' by a religion, or are just an expression of faith. Having said that, wearing a wedding ring isn't 'required' but if anyone asked me to remove mine then they'd have to have a pretty good reason, because of what it symbolises.
And given my recent experience in the NHS (more later this week), there are much more important things for NHS managers to be doing than faffing about with jewellery.
Other coverage and comments:
- Tabloid watch notes how stories like this fit a running 'political correctness' narrative in certain sections of the press.
- the Journal of Medical Ethics blog thinks the Trust is in the right, and that 'a hospital is a secular institution' - which doesn't entirely square with the presence of chaplaincies and prayer rooms, it's not quite that simple is it?
- best piece discovered so far is One Minions Opinion.
and lots of strange 'Britain is being turned into a Muslim country by political correctness' sites.