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Christian nurse penalised for wearing cross


A Christian nurse has been removed from frontline duties in Exeter after refusing to take off a cross.

Shirley Chaplin, 54, a devout Christian, said her employer, The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital, was violating her human rights.

“For about 30 years I have worked in the NHS and nursed patients day and night and on no occasion has my cross caused me or anyone else any injury - and to my knowledge, no patient has ever complained about me wearing it,” she said.

The hospital rejected the nurse’s claim, arguing that all necklaces had been banned for health and safety reasons.

Mrs Chaplin said, however, that she had seen other members of staff wearing similar items of jewellery and argued she was being persecuted because of her Christian beliefs.

“This smacks of double standards and appears to discriminate against Christians. This blatant piece of political correctness amounts to the marginalising of employees’ personal human rights, a blanket ‘secularising and neutralising’ of the NHS intended to stop Christians from expressing their faith in the public services of the NHS.”

Responding to the 54-year-old’s claim, the trust said in a statement: “We accept lapses on uniform policy may occur among our 6,000 hospital staff and line managers are expected to address it with the individual employee.”


Readers' comments (13)

  • It would be nice to see how many staff wear lanyards with an ID card on them. IMHO a much greater risk. Also have staff been banned from wearing ties?

    Perhaps she could wear it inside her tunic though?

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  • I think it's perfectly appropriate that the employer insists this nurse doesn't wear a necklace.

    If her organisation has a uniform policy that says necklaces aren't allowed, then necklaces aren't allowed. Simple. She chooses either to remove it or to face the consequences of breaching her employer's policy.

    Anything that dangles down (long hair, sleeves, necklaces, earrrings, doctors' ties, any religous garment, etc) which poses a risk to health and safety, or compromises effective infection prevention and control, shouldn't be allowed.

    The fact that there happens to be a crucifix hanging off the end of the chain should be irrelevant. If it poses a risk then it poses a risk.

    Gary Porter-Jones

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  • There are clearly 2 issues here: Firstly, if it is the Trust policy that no jewellery is to be worn on health and safety grounds, then staff have a duty to comply. The Trust also has a responsibility to put in place policies which are fair, reasonable and evidence-based and to ensure compliance in a fair manner.
    Secondly, any Trust requesting the removal of religious jewellery must be absolutely clear that they are not doing so from a misplaced notion that it might be offensive to others, fear or repercussions or misinterpreted ideas of equality and diversity. To do this would be corrosive and damaging to freedom of expression in society which we will all mourn if we lose, and is what people should really be fearful of.

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  • I would love to see the Trust which will ban wedding bands on infection control grounds! It would be reasonable enough as there is nothing special about them....

    Time for nurses to think of patients rather than their little symbol that they have managed to find a husband / wife....

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  • Has this not been done already?
    Necklaces shouldn't be worn more because of risk of being injured if someone grabs it I learnt the hard way.

    Literature doesn't suggest that neklaces are an infection risk.

    What is sad is that this individual tries to say that it is a religious reason, more like a unit manager getting tough on a uniform policy that is outdated and perhaps unnecessary.

    I do agree with a previous post that lanyards are a significant infection risk!!

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  • I think no jewelry should be allowed even, i's a cross it sould not be dangling, over, it's always been a policy not to wear jewelry, at times i have necklace, i made sure that it's undermy uniform ,if i have rings I always take it off until i finished my shift...for cross infection & free patient' from harm ...e.g. scratching their skin or anything else that can happen that, i don't know where is decepline, gone?& respect.

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  • I doubt this would be the same if someone was asked to remove a head scarf.

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  • every trust I've worked in has had a strict policy of no jewellery at all except wedding rings as a health and safety issue. This is in reality much more about being able to flout your religiousness in public and impose it on others. I would be horrified if in my most vulnerable moments of illness some 'devout' person though it was entirely appropriate to suggest they pray for my soul. I really wonder if there is any self reflection going on here or consideration of the potential impact on other people, and how actions like this might be received other than how they are intended.

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  • If you choose to do a job subject to uniform policy and control then you are expected to adhere to that policy regardless of whether or not it might be outdated. Im sure God wont worry if she takes her cross off at work, religion comes from inside a person not the bling worn outside it.

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  • I do not have a problem if i were to be asked not to wear my crucifix while on duty, so long as it was for infection control reasons ( it is under my uniform so can't come in contact with any patients). But it should be one rule for everyone, does exter trust stop any sikh's from wearing a kara?

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