Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent
LONDON, UK (Worthy News) — A major British health trust on Tuesday, February 3, defended its decision to suspend a nurse for offering to pray for an elderly patient.
North Somerset Primary Care Trust (NSPCT) said it had suspended Caroline Petrie, a Christian mother of two from the seaside resort town of Weston-super-Mare, in December.
"There are grounds for wondering whether the nurse’s sincere faith convictions about the efficacy of intercessory prayer are more strongly held than her commitment to a pattern of practice consistent with her professional role," the NSPCT said in a statement monitored by Worthy News.
The 45-year-old is now awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary hearing which
could lead to her permanent dismissal.
The incident which led to her suspension apparently happened at the home of a woman patient in the town of Winscombe, in the area of North Somerset.
"It was around lunchtime and I had spent about 20 to 25 minutes with her.
I had applied dressings to her legs and shortly before I left I said to her: 'Would you like me to pray for you?,'" Petrie told British media.
"She said 'No, thank you.' And I said: 'OK.' I only offered to pray for her because I was concerned about her welfare and wanted her to get better," the nurse said.
However following the December 15 incident she was contacted by the trust
and asked to explain her actions as the female patient, who is believed to be
in her late 70s, reportedly complained to the trust.
The NSPCT suggested that Petrie had violated the trust's guidelines. "It is not acceptable within the code to project personal beliefs unless invited to do so by patients and families, however, we are keenly aware of religious sensitivities and the importance of everyone’s individual spiritual belief – patients as well as staff."
Petrie said however that she often offers to pray for her patients and that many take her up on it. She either prays with them or after she has left their home. The nurse said she has been a committed Christian since she was ten – after her mother died of breast cancer.
Initially, she was Church of England but she switched to the Baptist faith nine years ago. "My faith is very important to me," she told British media. An atheist group on Tuesday, February 3, backed the decision to suspend the nurse.
In a statement the National Secular Society (NSS) said it was inappropriate for health workers to "evangelize". "Medical practitioners are, quite rightly, not to be permitted to offer religious services to patients," said NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous-Wood.
The case has underscored concerns among some churches and advocacy groups about the growing influence of atheists and pressure on Christian workers. Last year, a British Airways worker has lost her case for religious discrimination over wearing a cross to work.
Nadia Eweida, 56, took BA to an employment tribunal claiming it effectively
discriminated against Christians because they were not allowed to wear religious jewelery while Muslims were allowed to wear hijabs and Sikhs bangles.
The airline, which meanwhile changed its policy to allow crosses on chains over work clothes amid controversy over the case, said its clothing policy did not discriminate against Christians.
Church groups have expressed concerns about what they view as attempts to in Britain to keep God out of society. A Russian television producer has said he is therefore launching a "There is God" advertising campaign in London to counter atheist posters displayed on buses in January.
Posters reading "There is God. Don't Worry. Enjoy your life!" will appear on
London buses in March, said Alexander Korobko, the head of the London-based Russian Hour satellite TV channel in published comments.
A campaign organized by the British Humanist Association (BHA), which reportedly raised 140,000 pounds ($200,000) instead of the planned 5,500, put slogans reading "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" on 800 buses.
Ahead of the campaign, supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, Christian students are reportedly taking part in freely distributing some 400,000 copies of Mark’s Gospel, the second book in the Bible's New Testament, "to get students thinking about God."