Cross case nurse Shirley Chaplin plans to appeal ruling

Shirley Chaplin Ms Chaplin had worn the cross necklace on the wards for 30 years

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A Christian nurse who lost her discrimination-at-work case at the European Court of Human Rights has said she plans to appeal.

Shirley Chaplin, 57, from Exeter, was stopped from wearing a necklace with a cross by her employer on health and safety grounds.

The court ruled that her rights had not been violated under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ms Chaplin said: "I don't regret it. I had to stand up for my faith."

She was one of four British Christians who had brought cases against the government, claiming they suffered religious discrimination at work.

Start Quote

I don't regret it [the journey], I had to stand up for my faith”

End Quote Shirley Chaplin

Ms Chaplin was transferred to a desk job by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital for failing to remove the cross, which she had worn to work for 30 years.

The judges had decided that agreed health and safety concerns outweighed her religious rights.

Mrs Chaplin said: "It seems ridiculous to me - I wore it [the crucifix] on my confirmation when I was 16, I've been a nurse since 1978.

"I've worn it without incident, I've nursed a very wide range of patients, I've been bitten, I've been scratched, I've had computers thrown at me, but no-one has ever, ever grabbed my crucifix.

"To say it's a health and safety risk, I really don't agree with that at all. We intend to appeal and take it back to the European Court."

'See it through'

Hospital officials said they discussed several ways the ward sister could wear the cross, including concealing it under her clothes, but the nurse refused.

The evolution of the cross

Crucifix held aloft
  • The cross has not always been the main symbol of Christianity. In the early days of the Church in Rome many believers used the fish symbol to avoid detection
  • Crucifixion was also a method of execution for murderers and thieves, so some of the earliest depictions of Jesus on a cross were used by Pagans to mock early Christians
  • The use of the cross as a symbol became more overtly popular after the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in the 4th Century
  • It is now the most widely recognisable symbol of Christianity, used by many Christians as an aid to prayer as well as a symbol of their faith

Source: BBC Religion and Ethics

Her discrimination case was heard by an Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2010, but they failed to uphold her complaint.

Lynn Lane, human resources director for the trust, said: "This case was between Mrs Chaplin and the UK government.

"However, we are pleased that the European Court's findings endorse the earlier findings of an employment tribunal.

"Our own dress code for clinical staff is in accordance with Department of Health guidelines and designed to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff."

She said: "I started on this journey and I have to see it through and I think the appeal will be the end."

Christian Concern funded Ms Chaplin's case and said it would support her if she plans to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

In the joint ruling, the court decided that Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee who had been told to stop wearing her white gold cross visibly at work, did suffer discrimination over her beliefs.

Judges ruled that the rights of the other three Christians including Ms Chaplin had not been violated.

The other two were Gary McFarlane, 51 - a marriage counsellor fired after saying he might object to giving sex therapy advice to gay couples - and Islington Council registrar Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

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