Secular madness – it’s not over yet

Although I’m as repelled by fanatics as anyone, I’m pretty sure justice has been done by allowing Caroline Petrie to go back to work. Her suspension was using a jackhammer to crack a nut. Would it have happened without the outcry in her favour, I wonder? The charge against her was truly Orwellian – who says citizens must show commitment to equality and diversity as distinct from obeying the law? But the controversy aint over. Note that it’s the trade and not the religious press that expresses fresh concerns about the guidelines – which leaves the issue in limbo.

Fresh concerns have been raised by statements in the document entitled Religion or Belief: A Practical Guide for the NHS.

It states: “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.”

  • Danny Boy

    I don’t see what’s so terrible about this story- if any public servant asked me if I wanted them to pray for me while I was trying to access their services I’d be pissed off, and as an a theist tax payer, I’m pissed off if it happens to someone else. It’s not like the nurse was hung, drawn and quartered, and previous attempts to get her to stop had failed. Suspension seems reasonable.

  • Danny Boy

    PS Although to cater for grumpy taxpayers of every persuasion, hospitals could send round a form like the one you select meals from, and we could all tick the form of prayer we desire. Those of us who’d rather have none could have some other confidence-building bonus instead – whisky?

  • Dnny Boy,

    … hospitals could send round a form …

    Actually, I’d rather have the option of selecting a nurse who believes in the value of science, upon which the medical profession is supposed to be based, rather than one who, despite (I presume) some education and training, still seems to believe in voodoo.

  • Danny Boy “if any public servant asked me if I wanted them to pray for me while I was trying to access their services I’d be pissed off,”

    That’s devoid of any human spirit though…

    when one is ill in a Christian country it is not outlandish to have someone offer to pray for you – for that to mean suspension from work is totally unacceptable – especially compared to someone getting drunk, knowing they are contractually bound to attend work the next day and then pulling a sickie… that is more worthy of suspension than someone genuinely concerned that someone gets better and offering to pray for that person.

    In a scale of suspendable actions it rates rather low.

  • dunreavynomore

    a wile melee

    would the ‘christian’ thing not be to say the prayers without telling the person being prayed for? firstly, by telling the ‘victim’ of the prayers the praying person is seeking praise or thanks, which is ‘unchristian’ and secondly may be scaring the bejaysus out of the sick person by making them think they are beyond medical help and now need some form of hocus pocus or witchdoctory.

  • Catholic Observer

    Nurse Petrie merely asked her patient if she would like to prayed for. There was no compulsion or oppression involved. The charge that she did not manifest a sufficient concern for ‘equality and diversity’ would be more fittingly imputed to her employers. She did not denigrate the beliefs (of lack thereof) of her patient. It was not even necessary for the nurse to pray for her in the vicinity, and presumably she intended to pray for her privately in the confines of her home or local church. Her employers would do well to keep in mind that England is still a de iure Christian country and the Church of England exists ‘by law established’.

  • Dave

    Ms Petrie was dismissed under a code that states that midwifes and nurses “must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity”. In dismissing her, her employers blatantly breached their own code of conduct.

    Society has allowed atheists, who form a minority, to become the new witch-hunters, allowing them to persecute the majority – theists – under the guise of promoting secularism. The intolerance shown by these atheist fanatics towards “equality and diversity” should not be dignified by regulations.

  • Dave – I would question the assertion that theists are the majority. Church attendances are falling. Instead we have some people who are nominal theists who have a vague notion of their so-called belief. The minority are those with a fundamental (and I would say devout) belief. Unfortunately they are louder and more strident than any atheist. In the case of Nurse Petrie a sledgehammer was used. In hospital you quite often find that a minister/priest/chaplain ‘drops in’ to offer comfort and succour. When I’ve been in that position I have politely declined, and had an engaging and distracting debate that took the mind off the boredom and pain associated with hospital. Nurse Petrie – as far as I can gather – was at worst ‘unsubtle’.

  • Sarah

    Society has allowed atheists, who form a minority, to become the new witch-hunters, allowing them to persecute the majority – theists – under the guise of promoting secularism. The intolerance shown by these atheist fanatics towards “equality and diversity” should not be dignified by regulations.

    I’m an atheist and I don’t think this woman should have been suspended. And what a crime to support “equality and diversity” what sane country would ever do that?

  • sevenmagpies

    Dave,

    “Society has allowed atheists, who form a minority, to become the new witch-hunters”

    It’s a curious form of “witch-hunt” that offers ‘witches’ awareness training and advice about reasonable conduct and then only suspends them after a second offence.

    Nurse Petrie was told not to do something and she did it anyway. Should employers be allowed to take action against employees who won’t follow instructions or can employees do what they like?

  • I can see it now down the dole office.

    “Mr X, your application for benefit has been refused. I would pray for you if you’d like?”

    That will end well…

  • NCM

    Here in the US where medicine is not yet socialized one of the intake items routinely asked of a newly admitted hospital patient is religious preference. Patients can request chaplains, priests, rabbis, imams, Hindu “chaplains”, Buddist priests, you name it, and they will come while you are in the hospital and pray for you to your heart’s content. And this makes perfect sense and isn’t somehow voodoo or unscientific. After all, spiritual practice is a huge part of many people’s identity and life and provides psychological confort during times of major life stress and/or dying, regardless of whether prayer is answered by the universe like a lawsuit must be. The spiritual lives of human beings is a known fact that even secular folks like me can appreciate. Maybe the problem in the UK is that prayer is not addressed up-front and so some nurses feel like they should provide the service on their own, sometimes to the chagrin of patients who would have said “no religious preference” on the intake forms. But as there are no athiests in foxholes, it is unrealistic and counter to good medicine to make all patients live in a prayer-free zone when in the hospital. Prayer makes some patients feel better, and if they want prayer, it should be available to them. All this “diversity” stuff really isn’t, because if there were true diversity, patients could request the prayers of their choice like they can here.

  • sevenmagpies

    “Maybe the problem in the UK is that prayer is not addressed up-front”

    It is. I’m pretty sure most hospitals in the UK already have a chaplaincy or can arrange visits from any spiritual, religious or pastoral representative a patient requires.

  • NCM – the incident at issue here did not occur in a hospital but in a home care visit. How would a US health care provider manage such an incident?

  • Driftwood

    The spiritual lives of human beings is a known fact

    No its not. Its the apparition of people with IQ’s in single figures.

    ‘Spiritual’ is a bit like ‘New age’.i.e non mainstream religious. Like voodoo.

    Evidence please….

  • pauljames

    Hey NCM
    Coming from the US and as a professed secularist I thought you might’ve known better than to propagate that old chestnut “there are no atheists in foxholes?”

    To repeat the message one more time
    Religiots- Keep it to yourself.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Ah, the nurse was rather innocent with her hocus pocus but good samaritan gesture. BTW, did she tuck rosary beads and a picture of pope benny under the patients pillow. Would some god fear christian type folk disagree with that?

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    BTW, is there snow on Mars at the mo? Is Global Warming all a lie, so as just to tax innocent folk? Are people gullible? Would they believe anything?

  • Catholic Observer

    “BTW, did she tuck rosary beads and a picture of pope benny under the patients pillow. Would some god fear christian type folk disagree with that?”

    A Gregoir,

    A Protestant version of what you speculate happened in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast in 1963. The Royal Victoria (being a state funded institution) banned a gospel group from operating in the hospital. Ian Paisley in response wrote the following in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph:


    The time has surely come when a stand must be taken for the rights of the Protestant majority of our city.
    For well over 30 years the Sunshine Singers have been doing the valuable work of bringing the Gospel to the patients of the Royal Victoria Hospital. Now the wishes of the Protestant majority are to be sacrificied at the whim of certain Roman Catholic patients and medical staff, and the Sunshine Singers are to be barred from the wards.
    That it is the work of the Roman Catholic community cannot be gainsaid.
    The Mater hospital is forever crying out for Government help. Are the Management prepared to forgo their religious ceremonies in the wards because of their few Protestant patients of which they are always boasting? I think not.
    The Royal Victoria Hospital was built by Protestant money, but Protestant rights are sacrified on the altar of appeasement.

  • Lidl Richard

    “must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1127254/My-fury-selfish-Britain-woman-forced-birth-Tube.html

    You see the individual in this case would have dealt in the same manner with any mother of two who was one week overdue with her third child whether they be of African, Afro-Caribbean, or Asian origins and that is what we must not lose sight of: Professionalism.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I agree with Danny Boy. I’m an atheist, but I do not feel dismissal was appropriate. Suspension or a written warning. Can we really afford to be throwing out nurses over minor issues like this ?

    I wonder if people like Catholic Observer would feel the same way if the nurse had asked the patient if she would like her to make a burnt offering to Satan ?

  • Catholic Observer

    “I wonder if people like Catholic Observer would feel the same way if the nurse had asked the patient if she would like her to make a burnt offering to Satan ?”

    Well if I was in hospital and a nurse was intending to make a burnt offering for my welfare then I’d actually prefer that she asked me first. At least then I could decline her offer.

  • Comrade Stalin

    CO,

    Well if I was in hospital and a nurse was intending to make a burnt offering for my welfare then I’d actually prefer that she asked me first.

    Well, that’s what I said.

    At least then I could decline her offer.

    Very genteel of you. I doubt that a Satanist nurse would get away without the RC Church or other Christian organizations making an issue out of it.

  • Dave

    sevenmagpies, the witch-hunters made it an “offence.” And why exactly should such a kind gesture by the nurse be considered as an offence? I’d like you to explain this to me.

  • Rory Carr

    Having just returned from a short stay in a UK hospital after a bit of health scare I can comfirm that, as on previous occasions when I have been admitted to hospital here, along with details of medical history, next-of-kin etc. I was asked to state my religion, if any. I don’t recall the same question being asked when I was taken by ambulance to a New York City hospital about five years ago, but that may be because I was pretty out of it at the time.

    As for Ms Petrie (who I hear is a real dish!) – a Benthamite solution to the problem of the Ms Petrie’s which would afford the greatest happiness to the greatest number would be either to lock her up or cut out her tongue, preferably both to protect the prison warders, but I fear such practices are not in vogue today.

    So what is left to protect us from such people then? Well, we can warn them upon a first offence, send them on a tolerance-breaking-point awarness course and then sack them after a second offence. I know that the warning and the awareness course are pretty useless and serve only to confirm in such people their sense of martyred righteousness and we really would be better sacking them out of hand but we must be nice and give them the benefit of existing employment protection law as is their right.

    I feel confident that God will inspire Ms Petrie to conduct further experiments in prosletysation among her colleagues and clientele before we see the back of her.

    Perhaps all you Sluggerites might like to join me in a little prayer to help achieve that good end. For after all, as my mama used to say, “God is good and the Divil ain’t bad!”.

  • Dave

    Rory, how about just saying, “No, thanks. But I appreciate your kind offer.” That’s what folks used to say before the liberal-left PC-agenda made them into neurotic, hostile freaks.

    Of course, they’d also have slapped your face in the old days (but that was usually done in response to other types of unwelcome offers).

  • sevenmagpies

    Dave,

    “And why exactly should such a kind gesture by the nurse be considered as an offence? I’d like you to explain this to me.”

    It’s only a kind gesture if you believe it to be a kind gesture. I don’t see any difference between a nurse offering to pray and a nurse suggesting you vote Conservative because they’ll sort out the current shambles of the NHS and get you better treatment. Your job is not an opportunity for you to canvass on behalf of your religion or your preferred political party.

    Besides, if the nurse is convinced of the power of prayer, she should simply be praying for all her patients, not offering ease only to those who accept her offer.

  • “Besides, if the nurse is convinced of the power of prayer, she should simply be praying for all her patients, not offering ease only to those who accept her offer. ”

    Precisely.

  • NCM

    Folks, in the rest of the world outside of the UK, religion still holds sway over the masses, and some poor nurse offering a prayer to a patient isn’t considered an anti-social act to be treated with the same degree of official concern as a pedophile offering candy to a child in a park. This is all perfectly nuts. And the idea that many people do not have a spiritual life simply ignores actual practice all around the world. Tell the world’s 1 billion Muslims and 1 billion Catholics and 1 billion Hindus that religion is dead. Walk into a masjid in Saudi Arabia, declare like Zarathustra that God is dead, and see if the gathered throngs of worshipers agree with you. I triple dog dare you.

  • Been pondering this story for a while, reading the posts and wondering what will be the outcome of this ‘political madness etc’ that leads to professions of faith being outlawed. And the more I read about it, the more I believe that those in public service must keep their beliefs out of the workplace. In Northern Ireland we are banned from outward displays of political symbols, even to the point of having to be extra careful about displays connected with certain football teams. We have to fill in forms that all but state our religious background. BUT, there is no form to declare our lack of religion, or our atheism. There is no official category for those that reject the religious trappings of our sad benighted history. I note that NCM choses to throw statistics about religions, each of which must believe the other one must be a false faith. Well as someone who believes in an equality agenda they’re all wrong 🙂
    On a more serious note, of the three billion quoted, what would be the average functional literacy rate of those 3 billion (not including ability to read from a so-called ‘holy’ book/text).
    Ultimately Nurse Petrie made a faux pas for which she does not deserve to be sacked. But we mus be careful of the creeping fundamentalism that is afflicting our society, that questions science with ‘holy’ texts, that creates rules that exclude of ‘damn’ so many. Those of us who are atheists do not threaten damnation or violence against those who disagree. I pity the occupants of the masjid in Saudia Arabia who, as implied by NCM, would kill those that disagree with them…

  • sevenmagpies

    NCM

    “Folks, in the rest of the world outside of the UK, religion still holds sway over the masses, and some poor nurse offering a prayer to a patient isn’t considered an anti-social act to be treated with the same degree of official concern as a pedophile offering candy to a child in a park. This is all perfectly nuts.”

    Considering it an anti-social act to be treated with the same concern as grooming children is perfectly nuts, but then no-one is suggesting that.

    The nurse was using her role and position as carer to promote her own spiritual philosophy. She was told not to do this again and apparently sent on some sort of ‘awareness’ course to make sure she understood why she should not use her job as a personal platform. She continued promoting her own spiritual philosophy, against the direct instructions of her employers.

    In short, Nurse Petrie was told, by her employers, not to do something and decided to do it anyway. What should happen if she does this again?

  • NCM

    My point isn’t that there is or isn’t any underlying validity to any religious beliefs. My point is that the vast majority of the people in this world have religious beliefs, including many patients, and it is crazy to treat any mention of religious beliefs by nurses as a serious breach of medical ethics. That said, who the hell knows the truth about what happened here with this particular nurse? Was she prosleytizing like a nut or did she discretely broach the subject of prayer only to have a crazy bureacracy treat her as if she had propositioned a patient for a dirty deed done dirt cheap? I wasn’t there so I don’t know. But I suspect that happened was the latter, not the former. I’m suggesting though that the mistake of the posters here is to first start out with the question, do religious beliefs have any scientific validity? Well, maybe not, but it is perverse to use science to relegate the superstitious but satisfying practice of prayer to the back alleys when psychologically patients may benefit from the practice.

    Some right-wing posters have suggested that if the nurse were a Muslim, the NHS wouldn’t have acted. I hate to say it but I suspect they are right, because these “diversity” Nazis in government bureacracies respect some superstitions but not others. This is a result of PC thinking run amok. All religions are superstitions, and it shouldn’t matter if some superstitions are well established in the West while others aren’t. Let them all have their day. That’s called freedom of religion.

    But ultimately, here’s my problem. Shouldn’t the nurse have stuck to medicine and had a chaplain or priest or rabbi or whatever do the praying, if desired and requested by the patient? Yes. But without more, a nurse that broaches the subject of prayer with a patient hasn’t done anything worthy of suspension. A drunk nurse, a sleeping nurse, a lazy nurse… those should be suspended. A nurse that says the “p” word to a patient… as long as it’s not prosleytizing, then there shouldn’t be any issue.

  • NCM

    Pauljames: “Hey NCM
    Coming from the US and as a professed secularist I thought you might’ve known better than to propagate that old chestnut “there are no atheists in foxholes?””

    Ok, fine, but my point is that many people, under times of extreme stress, turn to religious beliefs or find religious beliefs psychologically satisfying. Others don’t, as you show. There shouldn’t be anything particularly controversial over this, right?

  • NCM

    Sevenmagpies: “Considering it an anti-social act to be treated with the same concern as grooming children is perfectly nuts, but then no-one is suggesting that.”

    Yes, that was artistic license, and was purposefully crazy on my part, but still, you’d think this nurse had asked a patient if she could cook and eat her nose by the way she was treated.

  • sevenmagpies

    NCM,

    “but still, you’d think this nurse had asked a patient if she could cook and eat her nose by the way she was treated.”

    Nurse Petrie did something that she wasn’t allowed to do as part of her job, she was then reprimanded by her employers and sent on an awareness course.

    Sometime after this Nurse Petrie did exactly the same thing again.

    How should the employer treat employees who won’t follow the agreed procedures and policies of their employment?

  • Is there anyone here who’d be offended if somebody offered to pray for them? When the rules are fucking stupid, you ignore them.

  • NCM – people in the US are frequently very touchy about other countries telling them off about their failings (like taking until 2005 to ban execution of persons under 18, and doing so by judicial and not legislative process in Roper v. Simmons), but you’re saying that the UK should worry about the standards found in fanatical theocracies?

  • NCM

    Mark Dowling, no, of course not, but that’s a straw man. What I am saying is that religion is still a going concern in much of the world, and it is crazy for a bureacracy to over-react to a nurse offering a prayer to a patient. Now IF this particular nurse is a prosleytizing nut, that’s a different story. But simply offering a prayer to a patient is hardly worthy of official sanction. I think Niall’s answer above is also pretty compelling.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Is there anyone here who’d be offended if somebody offered to pray for them?

    In the context of medical treatment, yes I would be. Just as there are people who would be offended if the nurse was a Satanist and offered to make a burnt offering to the Dark Lord.

    That said, I wouldn’t make a complaint about it. I’d politely mention to the nurse that I wasn’t religious. I do not believe the disciplinary action here was appropriate, but neither to I believe that the rules regarding people invoking religion while going about their work are there to be casually disregarded. In my workplace, the rules are very clear that religion is off-limits while people are on the clock.

    When the rules are fucking stupid, you ignore them.

    If that is the case, then you must do so prepared to face the consequences.