Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Friday, 6 February 2009

Diversity Nonsense

I had one of those “swear at the radio” moments this morning. And it was over a religion-related story, which isn’t usually something that can get my hackles raised. As an atheist, I don’t normally get excited about such things.

But when I heard about the nurse who had been suspended for offering to pray for a patient I was furious. Yes, mate, you heard right, a nurse in North Somerset was suspended from her post (without pay, according to one account I’ve since read) for offering to pray for an elderly patient.

Caroline Petrie says she often offers to pray for her patients. I imagine many of them are grateful and a few take her up on the offer. One woman apparently took offence and complained. The next thing Mrs. Petrie knew she was being hauled before the hospital trust being accused of, get this, “failing to demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity”. Actually you could accuse the trust of exactly the same thing.

The story has a happy ending, it seems. The reason it was covered on the news today was that Mrs Petrie has been reinstated, although I can’t find anything online to substantiate that.

A couple of things occur to me here. Firstly, would a Muslim nurse have been suspended under the same circumstances ? Answer: don’t be silly. Secondly, on the wider question of people “thrusting their religion” onto others, which is what this seems to come down to: it’s a question of extent, clearly. If a nurse waves the Bible in the face of the same patient day after day and says things like “If you believed in God you wouldn’t be in here” then that would be unacceptable. This, though, appears to have been a three-line conversation: “Would you like me to pray for you ?”, “No thanks”, “OK”. Not exactly the Crusades, is it ?

I’m afraid this is another example of a gross over-reaction to someone expressing a point of view and of how “causing offence” is rapidly becoming seen as the gravest crime known to man.

And to the hopelessly miserable patient who complained I have this to say (assuming God hasn’t dispatched her already, which, if I'd were Him, I'd have been sorely tempted to do): the nurse was showing she cared and was trying to help; get over it.

1 comment:

John said...

The ending might not be quite so happy for lovers of free speech. According to the Telegraph, a document published by the Department of Health last month says
“Members of some religions... are expected to preach and to try to convert other people. In a workplace environment this can cause many problems, as non-religious people and those from other religions or beliefs could feel harassed and intimidated by this behaviour.

“To avoid misunderstandings and complaints on this issue, it should be made clear to everyone from the first day of training and/or employment, and regularly restated, that such behaviour, notwithstanding religious beliefs, could be construed as harassment under the disciplinary and grievance procedures.”

As that stands, it sounds reasonable enough. But in the end, it is seems pretty likely that it will be used to harass people like Caroline Petrie.

It's just like taking photos of police officers. A new rule that we never needed before, which threatens basic liberties.