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Nurse Suspended After Praying With Muslim Co-Worker Loses Appeal Over Ruling: 'The UK's Legal System is Anti-Christian'

( [email protected] ) Apr 08, 2016 11:23 AM EDT
An Christian occupational therapist who was suspended from her job for nine months after praying with her Muslim co-worker has lost her appeal before an employment tribunal.
Victoria Wasteney was suspended after praying with a Muslim colleague and inviting her to church. (Julian Andrews/The Sunday Times UK)

A Christian occupational therapist who was suspended from her job for nine months after praying with her Muslim co-worker has lost her appeal before an employment tribunal.

As previously reported, Victoria Wasteney, now 39, had developed a friendship with her colleague Enya Nawaz, now 28, as they worked at the St. John Howard Center, a mental hospital, in London.

According to Wasteney, she and Nawaz openly discussed the differences between Islam and Christianity, and Wasteney had talked to Nawaz about her church's efforts to fight human trafficking.

"The whole basis of our conversations around faith started with her telling me that she'd had an encounter with God, that she felt she had been brought to London for a particular reason," Wasteney told reporters.

"We were both interested in what one another were involved in," she said. "It was part of the normal process of building a relationship with someone, to talk about primarily things we were interested in outside of work."

In 2013, Nawaz approached Wasteney about her personal health concerns on a lunch break, and Wasteney offered to pray for her.

Wasteney recalled to the Telegraph: "I put my hand on her knee to comfort her and asked if that was okay, and said 'Would you like me to pray for you?' She said yes, so I asked for God to bring peace and healing. She left the office afterwards and said she was okay."

The Christian woman also invited her co-worker to church and gave her a copy of the book "I Dared to Call Him Father," which is about a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity, and invited her to various church events, including a community sports day and an anti-human trafficking meeting.

A short time later, Ms. Nawaz reportedly filed a complaint with the U.K.'s National Health Service, alleging that Wasteney had tried to convert her to Christianity.

Because the two women often openly discussed their religious beliefs, Wasteney said she was "shocked" by Nawaz's decision to file a complaint. "It wasn't a case of me trying to convert her, let alone force Christianity on her. How could you?" she said.

According to the Telegraph, the East London NHS Foundation Trust responded by suspending Wasteney for nine months with full pay after finding her guilty of "bullying" and "harassment.

At first, the health therapist accepted a written warning, which would remain on her employment record for 12 months, and also accepted several conditions meant to prevent her from discussing her faith and beliefs with co-workers.

The matter then was appealed to an employment tribunal out of an effort to draw awareness to concerns over those who might face discipline for speaking about their faith in the workplace. But the tribunal upheld the panel's ruling, stating that it dealt properly with the situation.

Wasteney was granted permission to appeal the decision, but on Thursday, Judge Eady QC agreed that the Christian woman's employer was right to discipline her, the BBC reports.

"What the court clearly failed to do was to say how, in today's politically correct world, any Christian can even enter into a conversation with a fellow employee on the subject of religion and not, potentially, later end up in an employment tribunal," Wasteney said in a statement. "If someone sends you friendly text messages, how is one to know that they are offended? I had no idea that I was upsetting her."

She explained that she and Nawaz are friends, and shared a text message from the latter:

"Hope you're okay, Victoria. You're an amazing manager and a wonderful person. I hope you never feel otherwise!" it read.

Wasteney told reporters she believes the NHS singled her out for discipline because Christianity is "so disrespected" in England.

"Previously a Christian worship service that I set up for patients was closed down, but accommodation for Muslims to practice their faith wholly facilitated and encouraged," she said.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Legal Centre, also condemned the decision, stating, "Our legal system was founded on Christian values and yet we now see that it is one of the most liberal and anti-Christian legal systems in the Western world."

She added, "We need a radical review of the balance of rights in this country which is skewed to favour religions and ideologies other than Christianity. This is ironic given that it is Christianity that has given our society freedom, tolerance and hospitality."