A Christian nurse from the U.K., who was fired last year after some patients reportedly complained about her sharing her faith, maintained at a hearing Thursday that she did not impose her religion on patients.
Sarah Kuteh, the Christian nurse who was dismissed in June 2016 by England's National Health Service, said that she discussed religion and offered to pray with patients only when they wanted to. She would sometimes also speak about her own faith in Jesus Christ and how that helped her overcome adversity.
"I would ... reassure them, based on the joy and peace that I really have found in Jesus," Kuteh said, according to Christian Concern.
Despite a 15-year nursing career, she was dismissed by the NHS after patients apparently continued complaining that she was discussing her religion with them, despite being warned to stop doing so.
"I was walked out of that hospital after all I had done during all my years as a nurse and I was told I couldn't even speak to any of my colleagues," Kuteh, whose job involved asking about patients' faith as part of a pre-assessment questionnaire, stated.
"All I had done was to nurse and care for patients. How could it ever be harmful to tell someone about Jesus?"
Kuteh filed a claim for unfair dismissal with the Employment Tribunal. Employment Tribunal Judge Martin Kurrein said on Thursday that "many people are not religious and there are many people that object."
"It is a subject fraught with difficulty and as a consequence people should not express anything about their own beliefs without it first being raised as a question by anyone else," he said.
Pavel Stroilov of the Christian Legal Center, which is representing Kuteh, asked the witness, Sarah Collins, general manager of Adult Medicine and Cancer Services at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, whether any expression of Kuteh's religious beliefs at work would be inappropriate.
"If it makes a patient feel uncomfortable, then yes, it is inappropriate," Collins said in response.
Judge Kurrein agreed that at the workplace people need to keep their beliefs to themselves. "Everyone has their Article 9 rights and they can believe what they wish. But in the workplace they are circumscribed," he said.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, pushed back against that argument, however, saying, "Judge Kurrein demonstrated a profound lack of understanding about the Christian faith and what it means to be a Christian.
"This religious illiteracy is pushing Christians out of public life and robbing society of the service of many good people like Sarah Kuteh. To say that someone must be asked before they express anything about their own beliefs is deeply illiberal and wholly unworkable."
Kuteh's dismissal came when eight complaints, only one of which was official, were brought against her. She was first told of a few complaints from patients in April 2016. A few months later in June, she learned that more complaints were made and she was soon suspended. A disciplinary hearing in August then resulted in her dismissal. Kuteh said she was not allowed to see the complaints against her before the investigation hearing, nor was she allowed to call the patients to the hearing to investigate their claims.
Patients said they felt uncomfortable with Kuteh discussing religion while filling out pre-op assessment questionnaires. One patient apparently complained to nurses that Kuteh had given her a Bible she did not want and had said she would pray for her.
In an interview with BBC 5 Live, Kuteh explained that the patient had expressed interest in wanting to know more about religion so she asked the patient if she had a Bible and then offered one.
"I wasn't in a position where I imposed my religion," she explained. "I was having conversation with people who are just quite happy to discuss ... religion. It wasn't my belief I was just discussing, it was just church and stuff like that. It really wasn't the fact that I was imposing my belief on patients. This has not been the case at all."
Previously, the nurse explained that patients had shared their devastating diagnosis with her.
"I am very passionate about nursing — it gives me an opportunity to step into the patents' shoes and encourage them and empower them and make them realize things aren't as bad as it might seem," she said in December, according to MailOnline.
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust released a statement, saying, "We have a duty to our patients to ensure that when they are at their most vulnerable, they are not exposed to the unsolicited beliefs and/or views of others, religious or otherwise."
Kuteh is now facing disqualification proceedings before the Nursing and Midwifery Council.