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Persecution – Religious freedom

January 2016

A Christian NHS worker who was disciplined for giving a Christian book to her Muslim colleague has won permission to appeal against an employment tribunal’s ruling against her.

Victoria Wasteney, who has been supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), is head of forensic occupational therapy at a London hospital.

She was suspended for nine months, and then received a written warning, following allegations of ‘harassment and bullying’ by a Muslim staff-member, for inviting her to church-organised events.

An internal disciplinary panel ruled that Ms Wasteney was also wrong to have prayed with her colleague and given her a book about a Muslim woman’s encounter with Christ.

When she took this to an employment tribunal in April 2015, the tribunal ruled that her NHS employer had acted reasonably.

She requested permission to appeal this. Granting permission, Judge Eady QC recognised the significance of her case in raising points of law of public importance. She said that the appeal tribunal should consider whether the original ruling had properly applied the European Convention on Human Rights’ strong protection of freedom of religion and expression.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the CLC, said, ‘We are delighted that permission to appeal has been granted and that the judge has recognised the importance of the issues at stake. Victoria’s case raises crucial questions about how the European Convention on Human Rights’ strong protection of religious freedom applies in the UK and about the extent to which employers can censor freedom of expression’.

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