I am deeply concerned for Caroline Petrie and her family in the light of her suspension from work without pay, but also about the implications such actions potentially have for religious freedom in the UK. This week, I have met with both Caroline and John Smith, the Senior Minister of Milton Baptist Church, where Caroline Petrie and her family have been worshipping for 9 years.
John says: ‘As Caroline’s pastor I am delighted that she seeks to live out her faith 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I am supportive of the way she expresses this as a nurse caring for needy people offering prayer as a therapeutic opportunity in the holistic care of patients. Knowing Caroline as I do, I am confident that she has acted with integrity and dignity in making her offers of prayer, and that she has responded appropriately when people have declined her offer’.
Many of us are genuinely shocked that in an age when we hear of the value of a holistic approach by medical practitioners, and a widespread interest in spirituality that a nurse should be penalised for offering a therapeutic service – namely prayer.
I fully understand that her employers the Somerset PCT need to investigate complaints, but the fact that Caroline has been suspended without pay, suggests that a hostile judgment has already been made.
Baptists have a long history of championing freedom of speech in the UK and around the world. Caroline’s suspension suggests that such freedoms are under threat for us all.
If anyone feels concerned about this case and its implications, we have been invited to express comments and questions via the website of the North Somerset Primary Care Trust www.northsomerset.nhs.uk
I would encourage people to say something as silence can easily prove to suggest consent.
I would simply ask everyone to please be respectful of everyone involved if you choose to express your concern - some national editorials have not expressed their anger in the helpful manner.
A rough outline of this story as available on-line via the BBC website:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/7863699.stm