A woman accused of bullying her Muslim co-worker by trying to convert her to Christianity has said she will appeal the ruling of an employment tribunal on human rights grounds. Victoria Wasteney claimed she was branded a “religious nutcase” after being disciplined when a junior colleague accused her of trying to change her religion, the Telegraph reports.
And she slammed her employers, the East London NHS Trust, for having an “anti-Christian agenda”.
Miss Wasteney, 37, said that Enya Nawaz, a Pakistani Muslim, had been “manipulated” into complaining about her by colleagues, saying that she thought the two of them were friends.
The senior occupational health therapist was given a formal written warning after Miss Nawaz accused her boss of trying to convert her to Christianity.
The trust suspended her on grounds of gross misconduct and she was initially given a final written warning as a result after being accused of allowing her religious beliefs to affect her day to day work.
When she returned to work, Miss Wasteney, who worked as the head of forensic occupational therapy at the John Howard Centre in Homerton, a secure hospital for mentally ill patients, said she had experienced “hostility” which had forced her to leave her position.
She took the Trust to an employment tribunal, claiming it had failed to clear her of any wrongdoing because it would be “politically incorrect” to find a Christian innocent – something the Trust insists is not true.
Following the ruling, lawyers have now lodged an appeal citing article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which says everyone has ‘freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief‘ and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The NHS was accused of being “dominated by a suffocating liberal agenda that chooses to bend over backwards to accommodate certain beliefs but punishes the Christian”.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said Miss Wasteney was “an open, friendly, kind person and had a normal relationship with a colleague and there was nothing untoward.”
“The tribunal found it was inappropriate for her to engage in prays or give her colleague a book given her senior position,” she said, as the tribunal had heard Miss Wasteney had given Miss Nawaz a book called “I Dared to Call Him Father”, about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity – but denied it was an attempt to make her convert.
They were also told that Miss Nawaz had come to her in tears because she was upset about health problems and agreed for Miss Wasteney to pray for her. 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.
The tribunal heard the two had met when Miss Nawaz was a student before she started working as an occupational therapist as part of a group of 30 managed by Miss Wasteney.
The two would speak in a “mutually curious” as about their “shared passion for the things of God”, something which Miss Nawaz often initiated including the work done at Miss Wasteney’s church to combat human trafficking.
In addition, the Muslim woman even attended an anti-slavery event hosted by the Christian Revival Church at the O2 arena, where she was described as “excited” and first contacted her boss about her interest in combating 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.
But Miss Wasteney was informed in the summer of 2013 that a complaint had been made against her which included allegations of requesting the younger woman pray with her, setting up healing sessions at her house and saying she would not be healed unless she converted to Christianity.
Miss Wasteney’s representatives said: “We are going to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and will be arguing that the ECHR enshrines the freedom to be able to speak about faith in the workplace and not be disciplined for it and have conversations with others. We lodged the papers on Thursday.”