A secularist lobby group says health bosses are right to punish a Christian nurse who offered to pray for a patient.
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Caroline Petrie has been suspended without pay while managers investigate the matter and decide whether to take further action.
The National Secular Society accuses Mrs Petrie of being manipulative and using her role as a nurse to push her religion on others.
Many commentators say the diversity rules that Mrs Petrie is accused of breaking are driven by a secularist agenda that wants to remove Christianity from public life.
Mrs Petrie’s case has prompted widespread indignation, and The Daily Telegraph newspaper has launched a petition on her behalf.
The patient involved, May Phippen, has come out in Mrs Petrie’s defence.
Speaking of the prayer offer, she said: “It didn’t worry me, it just struck me as a strange thing for a nurse to do.
“She finished dressing my legs and before she left the last thing she asked was would you like me to say a prayer for you? I said ‘no thank you’ and then she went.
“It was the first time I’d seen her. She was a nice lady, did the job properly and was quietly spoken. Personally I wouldn’t want to see her sacked for something like that. “
But Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society says Mrs Petrie’s offer of prayer was tantamount to using “her privileged access to the homes of private individuals as a pulpit”.
He says “the disciplinary hearing should elicit from her a promise that she will not repeat this”.
Mrs Petrie was reprimanded on the grounds that she had broken nursing rules stating: “you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health” and “you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity”.
Commenting on the case, The Daily Telegraph’s George Pitcher said: “Much of so-called equality and diversity legislation is driven not by a pursuit of those ideals, [but] by a secular agenda bent on driving religion from the public sphere.
“It is not only religious people who will resist that agenda. Health professionals who look dispassionately at the welfare of their patients will recognise that the combination of the medical and the spiritual is worth more than the sum of its parts.
“The hounding of a nurse, committed equally to her job and to her faith, from her selfless work doesn’t serve the interests of her patients. It only serves the interests of those who would expunge religion from public life for political reasons.
“Nurse Petrie doubtless recognises that. She should have our blessing, not our censure.”