Judge Martin Kurrein made the comments during the hearing of Sarah Kuteh, a Christian nurse dismissed by the NHS after she spoke to patients about her faith, and occasionally offered prayer.
Inappropriate if uncomfortable
During a cross-examination of a witness, Christian Legal Centre representative Pavel Stroilov, who is representing Mrs Kuteh, asked: ‘Are you suggesting that in the context of Sarah’s duties, any expression of her own religious beliefs is inappropriate?’
The witness, Sarah Collins, General Manager, Adult Medicine and Cancer Services at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, replied: ‘If it makes a patient feel uncomfortable, then yes, it is inappropriate.’
Mr Stroilov remarked: ‘But you can’t know in advance whether someone would be offended by a comment.’
Judge Kurrein said: ‘That is why you shouldn’t make the comment. Everyone has their Article 9 rights and they can believe what they wish. But in the workplace they are circumscribed. Many people are not religious and there are many people that object. It is a subject fraught with difficulty and as a consequence people should not express anything about their own beliefs without it first being raised as a question by anyone else.’
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, commented: ‘To say that someone must be asked before they express anything about their own beliefs is deeply illiberal and wholly unworkable.’