Once again we have seen another employee have to stand up in court against her employer. In a country where we treasure our right to free speech and will, why is it we are showing discrimination against someone who chooses to wear a symbol associated with her faith. Or have we?

A nurse working for the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust hospital felt offended when told to remove her crucifix whilst at work. Shirley Chaplin refused to do so as she claimed it would “violate her faith” if she did. However, there is not a rule within the catholic faith that makes it compulsory to wear a crucifix nor any other symbol of your faith such as rosary beads. 54 year old Shirley Chaplin argued that the symbol of the Catholic religion was in fact compulsory in her case due to personal reasons, it being a gift she had received at her confirmation into the Catholic faith. She also added that she was required to keep it outside her uniform as visual proof that she followed her chosen faith.

Throughout her 30 years working as a nurse she had not taken off the item of jewellery. This period of time was spent wearing an old version of the nurse’s uniform. So whilst she had been wearing the old clothing, she had worn the cross over her attire. The slight adjustment to the nurse’s outfit which sees a large v-neck was then introduced and Mrs Chaplin continued to wear the cross with no complaints forthcoming until the summer of last year.

Shirley Chaplin felt she was being targeted for wearing the small symbol. Shirley argued that it would be disrespectful to remove it. She took this as a personal offence. The nurse argued;

The crucifix is an exceptionally important expression of my faith and my belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I do not say that she is wrong in her personal view of how she should follow her own faith although I doubt that a deity would require a mortal to wear a cross to believe in them. Many cannot as they simply cannot afford to. I feel that she may have reacted too strongly to the situation.

The archbishop of Canterbury had himself used Shirley’s case as an example when speaking of how many Christians are stopped from wearing the traditional (although not mandatory) symbol of their faith. Mrs Chaplin had continually expressed her views that this was an attack upon Catholicism with statements following the case which did not end in her favour, calling the result "a very bad day for Christianity" and voiced her intention to return to work the following day along with the crucifix.

The hospital did show their understanding by suggesting if Mrs Chaplin insisted upon wearing her chain that she clip it to the inside of her clothing to stop patients grabbing the item, to which she suggested "I was always prepared to modify the chain with a magnetic clasp” (meaning that it would separate more easily if grabbed by a patient).


The actual truth of the matter in regards to regulations that need to be maintained in a job such as nursing show both parties to be wrong. The hospital argues that the reason for the complaint was not due to the pendant being a religious symbol, but a risk if patients were to pull upon it.

I have suddenly lost faith in our hospitals as they do not seem to take into account that wearing an object that falls loosely around the neck is a very dangerous in regards to hygiene. A loose necklace such as this can easily become a vessel for all germs that would like a lift around the hospital instead of just walking. In the medical profession everything is sterilised and we also see a vast amount of plastic as this is easy to keep clean. As with doctor’s ties, Mrs Chaplin’s necklace could, in theory, become a transporter of infection through the hospital if it came into contact with patients as she leant over them. This could then move on to the next person, be it patient or staff, that it may brush against. Even a split second gives the germs more than enough time to infect the unsuspecting second person so that one necklace could be the cause behind an outbreak of MRSA, C-Diff or something similar. Of course Mrs Chaplin would have no awareness that she was passing the bug from person to person but then, neither did 'Typhoid Mary' and well we all know what happened there do we not?

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