UK Nurse Returns to Work; Still to Pray

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A Christian nurse from England is going back to work after a six-week suspension.

Her case has highlighted what some say is a pattern of discrimination against Christians in the workplace.

Caroline Petrie, a Home Care Nurse, says prayer is an important part of the care she gives her patients.

"I believe it's part of their whole care. I believe that health has three areas, physical mental and spiritual," she said.

Many patients welcome her prayers and some have even improved.

"Lots of patients have felt peaceful, comforted, they become relaxed, their faces become cheerful, almost glowing sometimes," Petrie added.

But this Baptist mother of two found herself in the center of a storm after she offered to pray with a patient last December.

The patient, an elderly woman, politely refused the prayer and Petrie says she didn't force the issue.

However, her employer, The North Somerset Primary Trust, suspended Petrie to investigate the matter.

Petrie said she was shocked by her employer's reaction.

"Very taken back, very taken back. I understand that the PTC have their patients interests at heart and they do look, importantly to the well-being of all patients, but of course it is, to me it is quite bizzare," she said.

Her employer says it's the second time there's been a complaint about Petrie.

They view her offers of prayer as a violation of workplace equality and diversity rules.

A spokesman for the Christian Legal Centre, which is advising Petrie, says those rules are used to silence Christians.

Mike Judge of the Christian Institute agrees.

"The policies of tolerance and diversity that we find in workplaces we believe are just a coverup for censorship and oppression. And it's people like Caroline, who love their job, who can't leave their faith at the door, just end up in the firing line," he said.

"I am not so sure that this case would have arisen if the nurse had been a Muslim," he added. "In Britain we are seeing Christians being treated with a different standard to other religious groups."

Announcing Petrie's reinstatement, The Trust said they understand how Petrie felt.

"We recognize that Caroline felt that she was acting in the best interests of her patients, but for nurses whose principal role is giving nursing care, the initiative lies with the patient and not with the nurse."

Petrie says the experience won't keep her from praying with those who want it.

"I can't divorce my faith from my nursing profession. Everything, those two, go hand in hand, it's part of who I am. I can't be somebody else," she said.

*Originally aired February 6, 2009

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