A charity in England, has issued a formal apology to a Christian chaplain after the chaplain was told that he would face consequences and would need retraining if he did not remove a half-inch cross pin from his shirt.
The chaplain, 73-year-old former businessman Derek Timms, has served as a chaplain for the Marie Curie charity for four years without any complaints. The charity offers care and support to terminally ill people and their families. But in September, the branch of the charity in the town of Solihull announced that it would change the job titles of chaplains to “spiritual advisors” and emphasize an interfaith approach.
A new staff person—an ordained Methodist minister—began leading the spiritual advisors. After meeting Timms, she told him that she was surprised he was wearing a cross and said he should refrain from wearing it. In a subsequent email, the minister wrote: “If you would like to have a cross out of sight in your pocket and put it on when you know for sure that you are going into the room of a person of Christian faith, that would be acceptable, but also not particularly necessary.”
Timms searched the Code of Conduct for healthcare chaplains, the National Health Service chaplaincy guidelines, the Chaplaincy Code of Conduct and Marie Curie’s web pages but did not find any references about religious symbols being prohibited. When he raised this point, the minister said they would need to have a meeting in which they would need to “make a decision about if you are suitable to continue providing spiritual care for us here.”
With the help of the Christian Legal Centre, Timms wrote back, sharing excerpts from a legal case in which the European Court of Human Rights ruled, “it is a fundamental right to be able to manifest one’s faith by wearing a cross or other religious jewellery in the workplace.”
Timms’ letter was escalated to the charity’s regional head office, which responded: “I can confirm that currently we have neither an organisational or uniform policy that would support our recent request to remove your cross while supporting patients and families in the Hospice. I apologise unreservedly for the distress that we have caused.”
Timms said he welcomes and is grateful for the apology from Marie Curie, but he added, “I believe my work as a chaplain now lies elsewhere.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “We call on chaplaincy teams and leaders across the U.K. to not be ashamed of the Christian faith, but to uphold and cherish the crucial role Christian chaplains play in supporting people at the most vulnerable moments in their lives.”
Photo: Christian Legal Centre