A Christian nurse has claimed she was sacked after praying for a Muslim colleague, who had work problems. Victoria Wasteney, 37, who works as a senior occupational therapist at a psychiatric hospital in east London, is now taking a hospital to an employment tribunal after accusing it of religious discrimination.
Miss Wasteney said she asked fellow nurse, Enya Nawaz, if she could pray for her, saying: “God, I trust You will bring peace and You will bring healing.”
But Miss Wasteney, who describes herself as a “born-again Christian” was sent home for allegedly harassing Miss Nawaz.
I believe in freedom of speech, but I’ve always believed we should be sensitive to one another’s beliefs and feelings.
East London NHS Foundation Trust suspended her for nine months on full pay, gave her a written warning and told her not to discuss her faith with colleagues.
The nurse, from Buckhurst Hill, Essex, this week begins a legal challenge against the trust for discriminating against her over her religion.
Miss Wasteney, said: “I’m not a hard-line evangelical. I’m not anti-Muslim. I believe in freedom of speech, but I’ve always believed we should be sensitive to one another’s beliefs and feelings.”
The nurse had previously invited Miss Nawaz to her church and had given her a book about a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity.
Miss Wasteney fears society has reached a point where colleagues cannot invite each other to events “for fear of offending.”
She says she had merely offered 25-year-old Miss Nawaz a shoulder to cry on.
She said: “She was very emotional and tearful and was talking to me about her fear of dying. I put my hand on her knew to comfort her – asking her if that was all right – and prayed with her, asking God to heal her.”
She also handed over the religious book.
She continued: “It was a natural and open thing for me to do and she didn’t object in any way.”
But Miss Wasteney claims that Miss Nawaz came under pressure to file a complaint on religious grounds.
In June 2013 she submitted an eight-page document accusing Miss Wasteney of trying to convert her to Christianity, telling her she would not recover from her illness and “laying hands on her.”
Miss Wasteney, a member of the Christian Revival Church, denies all the accusations and says she has been singled out for her strong faith.
In documents handed to the coming week’s tribunal, she said: “My professional career has been jeopardised, my reputation damaged, relations with colleagues ruined and I was subjected to an ordeal of persecution dressed as ‘disciplinary action’ for an extraordinarily long time. I was discriminated against because of my faith.”
Since handing in her complaint, Miss Nawaz has left the hospital and Miss Wasteney has taken up a position at the trust’s head offices.
Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The NHS is increasingly dominated by a suffocating liberal agenda that chooses to bend over backwards to accommodate certain beliefs but punishes the Christian.”
East London NHS Foundation Trust said it was inappropriate to comment ahead of the tribunal