Da handler det om det offentlige britiske helsevesenet og en kristen versus en muslimsk medarbeider.
A Christian health worker has begun a legal challenge after being disciplined by the NHS for praying with a Muslim colleague.
Victoria Wasteney, a senior occupational therapist in one of the country’s most racially diverse areas, was also accused of bullying the colleague after giving her a book about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity.
In addition, senior managers told Miss Wasteney that it was inappropriate to invite the woman to a community sports day organised by her church.
The complaints led to Miss Wasteney being suspended on full pay for nine months.
Three charges were upheld against the 37-year-old Christian at an internal disciplinary hearing in February and five charges were found to be unsubstantiated. She had to accept a final written warning at work which will remain on her records for 12 months, as well as accept a range of other requirements designed to stop her discussing her faith and beliefs with colleagues.
Miss Wasteney said she was challenging her employers in court because political correctness in the NHS was stifling ordinary conversations about faith.
“I believe in tolerance for everyone and that is why I am challenging what has happened to me,” she added.
The young Muslim woman was appointed as a newly qualified occupational therapist in a team of 30 managed by Miss Wasteney at East London NHS Foundation Trust.
“One of the earliest conversations I can recall was one in which she said she had just moved to London. She felt that God had a real plan and a purpose for her,” said Miss Wasteney, from Essex. Miss Wasteney told her colleague that she went to church, but was “very cautious because our environment is such that these things can be misconstrued and, with her being from a different faith background, I was mindful of being respectful of that”.
Miss Wasteney said the woman was interested in the anti-human trafficking community work being done by her church.
Over a period of time, Miss Wasteney said she invited her colleague to several church-organised events and thought no more about it. Later, when the woman was due to go off work for hospital treatment, Miss Wasteney gave her a book to read during her recuperation.
“A friend had recommended it to me, a book called I Dared to Call Him Father. I hadn’t read it. I still haven’t. But it is a story about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity.
“Because we had had these conversations it did not seem abnormal. It certainly was not an attempt to convert her to Christianity, as it was put to me later.”
On another occasion the woman came to Miss Wasteney’s office in tears, upset about her health and problems at home.
“I said to her that she had strong faith and she should draw on that faith,” said Miss Wasteney. “I said ‘Pray!’ She told me she could not pray, so I replied ‘Maybe I can pray for you?’ And she said ‘OK’.
“I asked if I could put my hand on her knee, and she said yes. I don’t know if I said ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ but I said what I thought was the most neutral. Then I said ‘I trust that You will bring peace and You will bring healing’.”
In June last year, Miss Wasteney was told that complaints had been made about bullying and harassment.
A disciplinary hearing at her work in February found her guilty of three charges of misconduct – praying with the colleague, giving her the book and inviting her to church events.
Miss Wasteney’s case is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, which has instructed Paul Diamond, a leading human rights barrister.
Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the case demonstrated that “the NHS is increasingly dominated by a suffocating liberal agenda that chooses to bend over backwards to accommodate certain beliefs but punishes the Christian”.
A spokesman for East London NHS Foundation Trust said it did not comment on individual cases.