NHS therapist who gave Muslim colleague a Christian book loses appeal against disciplinary action

Victoria Wasteney gave her Muslim colleague a book about a woman who had an encounter with God.

A female NHS therapist who was disciplined after she gave a Christian book to a Muslim colleague has lost her appeal.

The Christian Legal Centre which is representing Victoria Wasteney warned: "Today's ruling raises serious questions as to whether any Christian in a position such as Victoria's will be protected, if they manifest their faith in the workplace."

Her Honour Judge Eady QC upheld an employment tribunal's ruling that the NHS had acted reasonably in disciplining Victoria for inviting her colleague to church-related events, praying with her and giving her a Christian book.

Wasteney, head of forensic occupational therapy at a London hospital, was suspended for nine months and then received a written warning following allegations of "harassment and bullying".

An internal disciplinary panel dismissed five complaints against her but upheld three, saying that she was wrong to have invited her colleague to various church-organised events, prayed with her and given her a book about a Muslim woman's encounter with Christianity.

This had taken place over a period of several months in the context of what Wasteney believed to be a genuine friendship, according to the Christian Legal Centre.

In April last year, an employment tribunal ruled that the hospital had acted reasonably in disciplining Wasteney.

She was then granted permission to appeal. Eady ruled that the tribunal should consider whether the original ruling had properly applied the European Convention on Human Rights' protection of the right to freedom of religion and expression.

Wasteney said: "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.

"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 cited the following text, as sent by the complainant: "Hope your okay Victoria, your am amazing manager and a wonderful person, I hope you never feel otherwise!! Anyone that can't see that is an idiot, see you tomorrow xx". [sic]

Wasteney said: "I believe the NHS singled me out for discipline because Christianity is so disrespected. Previously a Christian worship service that I set up for patients was closed down, but accommodation for Muslims to practise their faith wholly facilitated and encouraged."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "The United Kingdom has a strong foundation rooted in Christianity which has brought us freedom and flourishing.The NHS and our Education System were started by Christians, motivated by their faith. 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.

"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."