A Christian health worker has accused the NHS of making her look like a ‘religious nutcase’ after she was branded a bully for praying for a Muslim colleague.
Victoria Wasteney, 37, was disciplined for alleged bullying and harassment after Enya Nawaz, 25, told managers that the senior occupational health therapist had tried to convert her to Christianity.
Tomorrow Miss Wasteney will launch an employment tribunal against the NHS trust she works for, claiming her employers discriminated against her because of her religion.
Miss Wasteney told the Daily Mail: ‘I’m not anti-Muslim and I’m always very mindful to be sensitive to other people’s beliefs.
‘We discussed our beliefs but I certainly didn’t tell her that my way was the only way. I don’t even believe it’s possible to force someone to convert.
‘But the way it was all handled left me looking like a religious nutcase and I would like an acknowledgement that there is a negative attitude towards Christianity in some areas of the public sector.’
Miss Wasteney, who describes herself as a born-again Christian, was working at the John Howard Centre, a secure psychiatric hospital in Homerton, East London.
She said she was always careful about discussing her religion at work because her managers had warned her it could ‘get you in trouble’.
After Miss Nawaz joined the hospital as a newly qualified occupational therapist in 2012, the two women discussed Islam and Christianity, as well as work done by Miss Wasteney’s church to campaign against human trafficking.
Miss Wasteney said her colleague had ‘definitely initiated’ the conversations, before she invited Miss Nawaz to attend church events linked to the anti-trafficking work.
She said Miss Nawaz had then come to her in tears because she was upset about health problems. Miss Wasteney said: ‘I put my hand on her knee to comfort her and asked if that was okay, and said ‘Would you like me to pray for you?’
‘She said yes, so I asked for God to bring peace and healing. She left the office afterwards and said she was okay.’ Miss Wasteney also gave Miss Nawaz a book, I Dared to Call Him Father, about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity, but denied it was an attempt to make Miss Nawaz convert.
She said she was shocked to learn her junior had made a formal complaint, but said Miss Nawaz had previously told her she had come under pressure from colleagues to do so.
The East London NHS Foundation Trust investigated Miss Nawaz’s eight-page complaint in June 2013. Miss Wasteney was suspended on full pay for nine months while the investigation was carried out.
A disciplinary hearing dismissed some of the allegations but upheld three complaints related to the book, the invitation to church events and Miss Wasteney’s offer to pray for Miss Nawaz.
It ruled that the episodes amounted to misconduct. Miss Wasteney was given a written warning, although she was not sacked and continues to work in another area of the trust.
Miss Wasteney praised the NHS trust for working to encourage equality and diversity but said respect for other faiths should not be used to stifle discussions about Christianity.
She said: ‘I hope by bringing this employment tribunal it will help the NHS trust to acknowledge that there is negativity towards Christians and Christianity in the culture of the workplace.’
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting Miss Wasteney, 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.’