A Christian therapist who works for the National Health Service was disciplined and banned from discussing her faith at the workplace after being suspended for nine months for allegedly bullying a Muslim colleague. Victoria Wasteney, head of occupational therapy at the NHS Trust in East London was reinstated recently but she is now moving onto a new project.
Despite the verdict against her, Wasteney says she was always respectful to her colleague and discussed her faith only when questions were asked to her.
“I fear I may have been entrapped by a colleague who encouraged me to discuss my faith, who willingly agreed that I could pray for her and who even accepted an invitation to a church charity event,” she said.
The colleague in question is a junior from Wasteney’s department who complained to the Trust on grounds of harassment and religious discrimination. Upon investigation, Wasteney was found guilty of giving a book to her colleague that narrated the story of a devout Muslim who converted to Christianity, inviting her to church for a charitable event and placing a palm on her knee during prayer. Though the Disciplinary Tribunal initially ordered Wasteney to be suspended for nine months, the suspension was eventually lifted. Wasteney fought against the court’s verdict with the help of Christian Legal Centre saying, she was only responding in a compassionate and loving manner to a young colleague who showed a genuine interest in learning more about her faith.
“For nine months I was made to feel I was a danger to my colleagues and the public despite no evidence of wrong-doing. I had email evidence clearly showing the complainant wanted to come to my charity church event and I only put my hand on her knee in friendship after asking her permission while I prayed for her. I would have stopped praying immediately if I had thought I was distressing her in any way but faith was openly discussed and encouraged and welcomed by the complainant… I believe in tolerance for everyone. It certainly wasn't an attempt to convert her to Christianity,” she said.
During her prosecution, Wasteney brought light to the fact that NHS often discriminates between Muslim and Christian employees. According to her, Muslims are allowed to pray five times a day but sometimes, Christians cannot take time off on Sundays or pray while at work. 37-year-old Wasteney who has worked for the NHS for seven years is now appealing the court’s decision under the 2010 Equality Act. Paul Diamond, accomplished human rights barrister, will be representing her in this matter. Wasteney’s appeal comes after a number of Christian employees at the NHS complained about religious discrimination at their workplace.