Christian woman who gave religious book to Muslim loses appeal against work dismissal

A Christian NHS worker suspended for giving a religious book to a Muslim colleague has lost her appeal against a ruling that the decision to discipline her was lawful.

Victoria Wasteney, 39, was found guilty by her NHS employer in 2014 of "harassing and bullying" a work friend for giving her a book about a Muslim woman's encounter with Christianity, praying with her and asking her to church.

She was suspended for nine months and given a written warning, even though the woman had been happy to discuss faith with her and never gave evidence about her allegations to the NHS.

Ms Wasteney, a senior occupational therapist, challenged the decision by East London NHS Foundation Trust at an employment tribunal last year, but it ruled that her employer had not discriminated against her.

A judge gave her the chance to appeal against that decision, saying it should consider whether the original ruling had correctly applied the European Convention on Human Rights' strong protection of freedom of religion and expression.

Victoria Wasteney.
Victoria Wasteney.

But at a hearing in central London today, Her Honour Judge Eady QC dismissed the appeal.

Following the decision, Miss Wasteney, from Epping, Essex, said: "What the court clearly failed to do was to say how, in today's politically correct world, any Christian can even enter into a conversation with a fellow employee on the subject of religion and not, potentially, later end up in an employment tribunal.

"If someone sends you friendly text messages, how is one to know that they are offended? I had no idea that I was upsetting her."

Ms Wasteney worked at the John Howard Centre in east London, a mental health unit, joining in 2007 as head of forensic therapy.

She became friends with a new junior colleague in 2012, a Muslim, the pair sharing an interest in their faiths and campaigning against human trafficking.

In April 2013 Ms Wasteney offered her a book, I Dared To Call Him Father, which promotes conversion to Christianity. The woman accepted it, though later threw it away.

The following month, after the woman went to Ms Wasteney for help after becoming upset at work, she briefly prayed for her, putting her hand on her knee while doing so after seeking her permission.

Ms Wasteney also invited her to church on several occasions, texting her in a friendly manner.

But in June the woman complained, and Ms Wasteney was suspended for nine months.

A formal disciplinary investigation made eight allegations of misconduct and she was later found guilty of three charges, and was eventually given a written warning for "harassing and bullying" her colleague.

The woman, who quit her job shortly after making the complaints, never gave any evidence about her allegations to the NHS or later to the employment tribunal.

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