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Nurse Chaplin and her freedom to wear a cross in Court tomorrow Mon 29 March

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Issued on behalf of the Christian Legal Centre

Press Release

For Immediate Release

28th March 2010

Nurse Chaplin and her freedom to wear a cross in Court tomorrow Mon 29 March

The Christian Legal Centre is supporting the case of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards for wearing a cross around her neck.

This week she will take the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust to an employment tribunal after she was told last year that she must hide or remove a small cross on her necklace if she wanted to continue working on hospital wards.

While the trust refused to grant her an exemption, it makes concessions for other faiths, including allowing Muslims to wear headscarves on duty.


Shirley Chaplin, 54, had spent all her career at the Exeter Hospital and had never been challenged before over the necklace, which she has worn since her confirmation 38 years ago.


Mrs Chaplin is supported in her case by 7 leading Bishops who have written a letter to The Sunday Telegraph published today (28 April). In the letter, the bishops express their deep disquiet at the double standards of public sector employees, claiming that Christians are punished while followers of other faiths are treated far more sensitively.


The bishops who signed the letter are Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury; the Rt Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt the Bishop of Winchester; Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali the former Bishop of Rochester; the Rt Rev Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester; the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford; the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn; and the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield.


In their letter the bishops criticised the way in which Mrs Chaplin had been treated and stated that she should not be prevented from expressing her faith by wearing her cross.


“This is yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian Community are being treated with disrespect” they say.


“To be asked by an employer to remove or ‘hide’ the cross is asking the Christian to hide their faith”


The bishops said that it was “deeply disturbing” that the NHS’s uniform policy permits exemptions for religious clothing, but appears to regard the cross as “just an item of jewellery”.


The bishops also expressed their surprise that the Court had asked for evidence to be submitted to verify that Christians wear crosses visibly around their neck.


Shirley Chaplin sought help from the Christian Legal Centre and is now represented by leading human rights barrister Paul Diamond.


Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre supporting the case commented: “It would seem the Exeter Hospital would rather use its money to deny Christians their rights than using its scarce resources to treat patients. The money the trust is spending on lawyers in this case could employ many a nurse like Shirley Chaplin in front line nursing.


“It is ridiculous that in our country with such a great Christian heritage the court require evidence to prove that the cross is a Christian symbol whilst not applying the same standards to other faiths


“It is time for common sense to prevail and to allow Shirley Chaplin to return to front line nursing duty, the job she loves and has carried out diligently and successfully for over 30 years.”



For further information:

Andrea Minichiello Williams: 0771 2591164


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