LONDON – A Christian nurse says she is "disappointed" after a tribunal ruled that she could not wear her crucifix necklace to work.
Shirley Chaplin had gone to court claiming religious discrimination by her employers, the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust, after they banned her from wearing the necklace during shifts.
Chaplin told the tribunal that it was unfair that the trust allowed staff members of other faiths to wear religious and cultural symbols, including the hijab.
The tribunal ruled that Chaplin had not been indirectly discriminated against and that the claims of the NHS to ban the necklace on health and safety grounds were justified.
Chaplin said she was disappointed but not surprised by yesterday's decision.
"It is extraordinary that the trust can spend what must be tens of thousands of pounds defending their position, when at the same time they are making cut backs which affect patients every day," she said.
"What the Trust doesn't realize, as it seeks to enforce its uniform policy in the way it has, is that it sends out a very clear message to Christians working in the Trust or considering working for the trust in the future that they will have to 'hide' their faith.
"The message is clear: Christians whose faith motivates their vocation and care of patients do not appear to be welcome at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust."
Her case was taken up by Christian Concern For Our Nation, who said there was no evidence to support the trust's claim that wearing the necklace compromised health and safety.
CCFON said it was another case in which the courts were "reluctant to protect the rights of Christians."
It commented, "Instead of using common sense and proportionate measures to secure peaceful outcomes, as evidenced in their attitudes towards the hijab, there was a continual hardening of the trust and tribunal's position regarding the central importance of the symbol of the cross, recognized as the most important symbol of the Christian's faith since Christ's death on a cross 2000 years ago."