A Christian healthcare worker in the United Kingdom has accused the country's National Health Service of making her look "a bit crazy" after being disciplined for supposedly trying to convert a female Muslim colleague to Christianity.
According to an exclusive report from Victoria Derbyshire of BBC News, 37-year-old Victoria Wasteney expressed surprise at the allegations laid out against her. Wasteney thought that she and the colleague became friends over an 18-month period.
"I obviously felt as though I'd been painted as a bit crazy and someone who bullies someone and someone who harasses someone and who goes out of their way to manipulate and groom someone, which is far from my truth," Wasteney said.
Derbyshire reported that the East London Foundation NHS denied any charges of discrimination against her. The senior occupational therapist is currently appealing her case with support from the groups Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre.
"Her colleague had written an eight-page letter of complaint containing allegations Miss Wasteney was trying to convert her by routinely asking her to pray and giving her a book about a Muslim woman converting to Christianity," Derbyshire wrote.
Wasteney claimed that the bullying allegations leveled by the Muslim colleague were "far from the truth." However, she admitted to Derbyshire that there were "aspects of truths," including where she placed her hand on the woman and conducted a "very quick prayer" to express personal support toward the colleague.
"It was sad to hear later it was described as 10 minutes long," Wasteney said. "It made it sound like it was an exorcism thing that was going on and it was very hurtful. It wasn't, in my heart it wasn't the intention."
The therapist added that she still "genuinely cared" about her colleague and expressed "hope that she is well." According to Derbyshire, she worked at the NHS trust for seven years until she was suspended and investigated for "gross misconduct" back in June 2013; the suspension lasted nine months.
"In January, she lost a tribunal in which she argued the disciplinary action was due to religious discrimination," Derbyshire wrote.
As for her punishment, Derbyshire reported that Wasteney was given a final written warning, "boundary training" and monthly supervision. She thought that the tribunal's judgment "was grievous [injustice] to me."
"I felt... there was some injustice to what had happened," she said. "I felt that this was an avenue where I could stand and say, I would like it to be heard that this doesn't seem to be as it ought to be in a country where we are supposed to be able to be free with each other."
According to BBC News, Dr. Robert Dolan, chief executive of the trust, reacted to the tribunal decision in a statement.
"We have a strong reputation of positively supporting staff and patients from a diverse range of backgrounds," Dolan said. "We are an inclusive trust that values and respects diversity."
Dolan added that the trust was concerned "about the behavior and actions of a senior manager employed by the trust and not about the faith or religion of any individual."
Derbyshire reported that Wasteney has since returned to her job since the incident, but she now works at a different hospital.