British Nurse Fired for Refusing to Remove Cross Necklace
10/13/2021 England (International Christian Concern) – Mary Onuoha, a nurse formerly employed at Croydon University Hospital in Thorton Heath, England, has been “bullied” out of her position after years of pressure from hospital management.
“This has always been an attack on my faith,” Mrs. Onuoha said, “My cross has been with me for 40 years. It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm.”
Mrs. Onuoha, who became a nurse after her brother died from lack of medical care, moved from Nigeria to England in 1988 and began working at Croydon University Hospital in 2002. She wore her plain gold cross around her neck for years without complaints by either staff or patients.
In fact, when patients did remark on her necklace, they often expressed appreciation. “Patients often say to me ‘I really like your cross.’ They always respond to it in a positive way and that gives me joy and makes me feel happy. I am proud to wear it as I know God loves me so much and went through this pain for me.”
However, starting in 2015, hospital managers began to tell Mrs. Onuoha to remove or cover up her cross, which she refused to do. While the hospital cited safety concerns for the request, Mrs. Onuoha said other women who wore necklaces, bracelets, and other loose clothing were never asked to change.
“At this hospital there are members of staff who go to a mosque four times a day and no one says anything to them. Hindus wear red bracelets on their wrists and female Muslims wear hijabs in theatre. Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job.”
The matter came to a head when, in 2018 in the middle of a surgery Mrs. Onuoha was helping oversee, a hospital manager came into the surgery room and told her to conceal or take off her cross necklace. As a surgery was currently going on, Mrs. Onuoha refused both to hide her cross or leave her patient to store it. Mrs. Onuoha also noted how, in the very same surgery, the anesthetist wore a blue pendant and earrings but was never told to cover her jewelry or change.
“I was astonished that senior staff were prepared to potentially endanger a patient’s life in order to intimidate me to remove it,” Mrs. Onuoha said.
Later that year, Mrs. Onuoha was demoted from her position as a nurse to a receptionist and told that if she did not comply by hiding or removing her cross, there would be an internal investigation. Despite feeling humiliated and losing the job she loved, she still refused to remove her cross. Given further pressure by hospital management and the internal investigation, she was forced to take “stress leave” in June 2020.
“From a young age I naturally always wanted to care for people – it was in my blood. All I have ever wanted is to be a nurse and to be true to my faith. I am a strong woman, but I have been treated like a criminal. I love my job, but I am not prepared to compromise my faith for it, and neither should other Christian [National Health Service] staff in this country.”
Mrs. Onuoha, represented by the UK religious liberty group, Christian Concern, appeared on October 5 before the Croydon Employment Tribunal to begin her suit against the hospital.
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