Shirley Chaplin cross fight to be heard at European court

Shirley Chaplin Shirley Chaplin said the hospital breached her right to wear a cross at work

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A Devon nurse who refused to stop wearing a cross at work is to argue her case at the European Court of Human Rights in September, she says.

Shirley Chaplin worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital when, after a 30-year career on the wards, she was told she could no longer wear a cross.

The 56-year-old is taking the case to the Strasbourg court after losing an employment tribunal in 2010.

The hospital said it had acted in an appropriate and sensitive matter.

'Distraught and upset'

The Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust said the necklace for Mrs Chaplin's cross breached health and safety guidelines.

It said she was offered several alternative ways to wear her cross, including having it under her uniform, but she chose not to accept them.

Start Quote

Christians in the workplace who want to manifest their faith have the right to do”

End Quote Shirley Chaplin

She later took early retirement, claiming her employer breached a right to wear a cross at work.

She said: "I was distraught, I was very upset. I felt that my faith was being questioned, and my nursing abilities were being questioned in some way.

"It was as if they thought I would deliberately risk harming a patient by my choice of expressing my faith.

"Christians in the workplace who want to manifest their faith have the right to do. That is, to me, part of the human rights law."

In 2010, an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled against her claim because it said Christians "generally" did not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.

The hospital said the safety of staff and patients was paramount at all times and "sensible and sensitive" solutions were offered to Mrs Chaplin.

The National Secular Society said it agreed with the hospital's decision.

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases, but that "people should be able to wear crosses".

It said: "The law allows for this, and employers are generally very good at being reasonable in accommodating people's religious beliefs."

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