A devout Christian has launched an appeal against an employment tribunal which found she had ‘bullied’ a Muslim colleague by praying for her and inviting her to church.
Victoria Wasteney, 38, says she was branded a ‘religious nutcase’ when she was suspended from her job as a senior occupational therapist, after her colleague Enya Nawaz, then aged 25, accused her of trying to convert her to Christianity.
Her lawyers have now submitted a challenge to an employment tribunal, arguing that they broke the law by restricting her freedom of conscience and religion – enshrined in article nine of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Miss Wasteney, a born-again Christian, was working at the St John Howard Centre in Homerton, east London, when she became friendly with a junior colleague Miss Nawaz.
The two women had discussed Islam and Christianity, as well as the work done by her church at the Christian Revival Church in the O2 Arena in Greenwich against human trafficking.
When Miss Nawaz was upset about health problems, Miss Wasteney said she offered to pray for her – putting her hand on her knee and asking God for ‘peace and healing’.
She also invited her to church events and gave her colleague a book, I Dared To Call Him Father, about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity, but denied she was trying to make Miss Nawaz convert.
Miss Nawaz went onto make a formal complaint, and the East London NHS Foundation Trust suspended Ms Wasteney on full pay from her £50,000-a-year job for nine months while they investigated in June 2013.
A disciplinary hearing upheld three complaints about the book, the invitation to attend church and Miss Wasteney’s offer to pray for Miss Nawaz, and gave her a written warning for misconduct.
She continues to work for the Trust, but not in her specialist field.
She launched her own employment tribunal against the NHS in January, saying she wanted to raise awareness about the increasing difficulties experienced by religious people in the workplace and claiming the organisation had failed to clear her of wrong doing because it would be ‘politically incorrect’ to find a Christian innocent.
Speaking in January to the Daily Mail Miss Wasteney said: ‘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.’
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