christian cross necklace
An employment tribunal decided this is officially appropriate for UK healthcare workers to wear.

When it comes to medical safety and expression of religion, where’s the line? That’s the question an employment tribunal in the UK had to answer in a recent hearing.

The case involved 61-year-old Mary Onuoha, a devout Catholic who has worn the same cross necklace every day of her life since her baptism.

For some 20 years, the necklace was never a problem. That is, until 2015, when administrators at Croydon University Hospital told Onuoha, a nurse practitioner, that her necklace posed an infection risk to patients, and she needed to remove it.

The battle went on for five years, until Onuoha, feeling perpetually harassed and bullied, resigned in frustration.

Now an employment tribunal has decided that she was right all along.

A Christian nurse claims she was forced out of her job for wearing a crucifix necklace at work. Should cross necklaces...

Posted by Universal Life Church Ministries on Monday, January 10, 2022

A Controversial Cross

While the cross necklace was often a source of tension between Onuoha and hospital management, it was during a 2018 surgery when tensions boiled over. Onuoha was overseeing the surgery when hospital managers entered the surgery room and instructed her to remove or conceal the necklace, arguing that the jewelry posed an infection risk for the surgical patient. She refused, and later that year was taken off nursing duty and placed at reception instead.

Was her necklace a danger to her patients? That’s certainly not how Mary Onuoha sees it. It was never about safety and ”has always been an attack on my faith,” she says. She points to other religious apparel staff members wear – Muslim hijabs, Hindu bracelets – that, according to her, hospital management never made a peep about. 

“At this hospital there are members of staff who go to a mosque four times a day and no one says anything to them. Hindus wear red bracelets on their wrists and female Muslims wear hijabs in theatre,” she stated. “Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job. I am a strong woman but I have been treated like a criminal.”

They offered her a compromise, a longer chain that would keep the necklace out of sight, but she declined.

Trial by Tribunal

Following her 2020 resignation, Onuoha decided to sue Croydon Health Services. “I love my job, but I am not prepared to compromise my faith for it,” she said. “And neither should other Christian NHS staff in this country.” 

But the hospital says they were just following guidance from the Department for Health and Social Care. They stated that not only might necklaces harbor bacteria and transmit infection, they might fall off during a surgery, and an unruly patient might even grab the necklace and injure themselves or healthcare staff.

Last week, an employee tribunal decided Onuoha had done nothing wrong. "There is no evidence to show that the infection risk [other jewelry] posed was lower than the Cross-Necklace," the tribunal said in a statement. "There is no cogent explanation as to why these items are permitted but a fine necklace with a small pendant of religious devotional significance is not." With the victory, Christian faith leaders around the world took a victory lap.

Onuoha’s lawyers say this was always persecution. "From the beginning this case has been about the high-handed attack from the NHS bureaucracy on the right of a devoted and industrious nurse to wear a cross,” they said.

What do you think? Should healthcare professionals be allowed to wear religious symbols, even if they might pose a risk to patient safety?

Was it Christian persecution, or simply an abundance of caution? 

35 comments

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    My first thoughts are that as long as care and attention of items that are worn, including clothes, rings, jewelry etc are prevented from being an infection risk it should be ok to wear them.

    How many nurses, or nurses aids, do we see wearing scrubs in the supermarket, because they either can't be bothered to change, or because ego prevents them from changing. Scrubs then become contaminated and then they go back to work caring for patients. I see this practice as being more likely to be not in the best interest of patients than wearing jewelry. Just my ten cents!

    🦁♥️

    1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

      I left Christianity in 1975.

      However, if I am being cared for by someone who is medically competent, do not care what symbols they they wear so long as sanitation protocols can be followed.

    2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      Right on Lion. It was a thinly disguised pretext for political action by the hospital managers, period. Perhaps that is perfectly legal and administratively proper in England now, perhaps England has now become a sort of religious authoritarian state, such as China or Hindu Punjab or parts of central Asia where the legally authorized state religion is secularism, I know it is in a number of Muslim countries for instance where it is a crime to practice any other religion, but unlike the UK apparently they are also honest enough to not feel the need to hide behind phone pretexts.

    3. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      The Crucifix is literally a depiction of torture. It has no place in any place of healing. A good christian woman would of known that as a woman she had no place to speak in protest against those in authority. By her own hand she will now never be able to enter the Heaven she so hopes to one day see.

      Remember folks Equal rights does not exist in the bible, women in the faith are bound by the sin of Eve to forever submit to all mankind and never seek to challenge another command given them. Anything less and you are not a real christian.

  1. Kurt Neuleuf's Avatar Kurt Neuleuf

    Although I do not share her faith, I absolutely believe that her cross, being an integral part of her self identity, is her absolute right to wear.. Having worked in multiple medical establishments, hospitals, clinics, aged care facilities and so on, I can categorically state that in a majority of situations,( excluding Theatre, sensitive areas eg Xray or infectious control wards), that all medical staff do wear wedding rings, necklaces, ear rings, other jewellery, have mobile or in house phones they carry as well as pens , and other job specific tools. Why does one cross pose an assumed infection risk? Even in the unlikely event it did carry an infectious agent, a short bust in a microwave or autoclave would sterilise it.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      There's no risk more than all of those items you mentioned commonly worn and allowed. This is just a case of prejudicial and authoritarian abuse, just behind the usual authoritarian thin pretext. The action was probably also not genuine in that it was a single isolated case of intentional personal harassment, having nothing to do with crosses infection or anything else but simple punitive desire. Maybe she stole somebody's boyfriend.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    My last job didn't allow necklaces as a safety hazard. The one before that, frowned upon any visible religious jewelry.

    My wife's a nurse, in a prison. They can't wear any necklaces, as a safety hazard.

    So suck it up. You're not being oppressed, it's about safety.

    1. Reverend Gary's Avatar Reverend Gary

      What studies can your site to support your PERSONAL OPINION of "safety?"

    2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      So as an infection control specialist, you're confident that it was safe that all the other adornments mentioned were allowed, as perhaps as far as we know other people's necklaces were allowed also. Just this one case this one time, no published policy, information to staff about critical infection control policy, professional evidence of actual infection risk supplied as part of the policy creation justification process, consistent enforcement...how about her powdered makeup and mascara falling into a patient, demonstrated to be no risk there...yeah, right.

    3. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      That doesn't count, prison and corrections culture being known for what it is, health and safety is about the last thing anyone cares about.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    This is terrible. She should not be allowed to wear a necklace in an operating room without securing it. What happens if it falls of and land in the heart of brain of the patient during surgery? As a nurse she knows that. If I were being operated om I I would not want a nurse with loose jewelry in the operating room. Her negligence might kill me.

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    In the attached photo, the Nurse was also wearing an identity card and keys on lanyards. Such items appear to pose no more or less risk than a cross on a chain. Any distinction lacks any reasonable factual distinction. Even if the id card and keys are disinfected, the cross could also become disinfected.

  1. Gwendolyn Lord's Avatar Gwendolyn Lord

    Ridiculous and petty. Her cross is so small, inoffensive and not "on display". Swat at gnats and swallow camels Croyden Health. Persecution when carried to the extremes they did there.Glad she won her suit. Many other IMPORTENT things to focus in on during a pandemic in a health care setting.

  1. flugo's Avatar flugo

    Wearing 'cross jewelry' is ridiculous, anyway. Jesus is risen! Wearing an 'open tomb' symbol, instead of a cross, is far more appropriate.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      That's a different topic, although you are quite correct, as they are used today by the great majority, cross jewelry has more in common with the rolling Stones trademarked tongue and lips symbol then it does with religious feeling and religious, moral observance.

    2. Rev Nolan's Avatar Rev Nolan

      That’s actually beside the point. Suppose someone does not believe in Jesus at all. Would it be appropriate for another person to wear or not wear jewelry to YOUR satisfaction? I also don’t believe in the Jesus of the Christians, but I do respect and honor their right to believe as they do… so long as they don’t shove their beliefs down my throat. Wearing a crucifix does not do that.

    3. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Crosses are not only worn by christians, or meant to represent Christianity by many who wear them. A cross has been known as a spiritual symbol ßince long before Christ was ever thought of. A crucifix, on the other hand, which has a longer vertical rod than the horizontal one, and often a figurine of a man attached to it, is definitely a Christian symbol. I even have a real silver and gold cruçifix in my wallet, and proudly wear it to those Christian functions that serve free food and drinks.

    4. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      flugo, it's no different than those necklaces you wear when performing in dragshows.

  1. Reverend Gary's Avatar Reverend Gary

    There haven been recent studies in the United States regarding surgical masks. The type we always wear during any surgical procedure in hospital operating rooms, the type that have no way of protecting the millions of civilians wearing them to PREVENT CONTRACTION OF COVID, yup those masks. The study was to determine the effectiveness of the masks for any and all types of surgeries in hospital operating rooms. Surgeries were conducted under specific parameters comparing the post surgery infection rate of the surgical site when all surgical team members in the surgical theater wore masks versus not wearing masks. That is correct, the entire surgical team did not wear masks. All other precautions normally undertaken for OR surgical procedures were followed. The results: There was a decreased incidence of infection in the operating rooms where masks were NOT WORN!

  1. Rev Nolan's Avatar Rev Nolan

    It all depends on the tasks being performed. As a PAC or NP, who is not performing surgery, for example, or who is not working in a dangerous setting like a prison, jewelry should not be prohibited in the workplace. It’s freedom of expression, religion, and choice that no one else should care about. However, this is a story where such an instance does not apply. I am not a Christian, but I would feel very violated if I were in her shoes just as much as I am offended on her behalf.

  1. Rich Calton's Avatar Rich Calton

    Good thing SHE won! such a necklace is NOT an infection risk. Rings and fake nails ARE though and I have seen many nurses with those.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Are you kidding, Rich? Those evil Crosses will burn holes right into your skin!

  1. William Dusenberry's Avatar William Dusenberry

    The “facts” relating to the mythological suicide of the Christian Jesus, (Jesus committed suicide by allowing himself to be tortured to death) which means his father committed (the Christian God) committed some sort of cide (I was too lazy to find out the correct word, for a father who tortures his only son to death - in this particular case, a death which only lasted two days).

    Jesus’s suicide, by being tortured to death by his father, became the symbol of Christianity, and this grotesque symbol now adorns hospital rooms, kids play and sleeping rooms, and as of today, such grotesqueness has been given the approval of the SCOTUS (that the heathen Trump built).

    The wearing of a torture device around one’s neck, to indicate that the wearer approves of fathers torturing their sons to death — because wearing such guarantees an everlasting life, in a non-existent hereafter — sort of makes sense— if one has been brainwashed since birth to believe in such an absurdity — but that SCOTUS has now legitimized such crap, well, it’s just so much crap.

    One thing positive, that this Christian torture symbol has been proven to do, is prevent being attacked by a vampire; since Christians began wearing such torture devices, vampire attacks on Christians wearing such devices, dwindled down to the point that there are no vampires left at all.

    Maybe they’ll work with the Coronavirus— but if they did, we’d have known by now.

    1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

      William Dusenberry, Jesus didn't commit suicide by his being executed, anymore than any death row inmates today or down through history committed suicide by their being executed. That is ridiculous for you to say!! Soldiers in war who die don't commit suicide and haven't committed suicide. Christ and Christians are in a war against the Evil One, who is Satan, and, sometimes, deaths happen in this spiritual war, the same as they do in human wars. So, Jesus Christ and the Christian martyrs didn't commit suicide, but nobly self-sacrificed themselves for the truth. Don't you believe that there is anything more important than clinging to life at any cost for which people should be willing to give their lives, such as defense of wives, children, innocent and defenseless people, and our countries, without that being suicide?!! If not, I'm very sorry for you, that your morality is so very lacking and pitiful!! The Romans meant the cross as a torture and execution device, but Christ's death on it and His resurrection transformed it into a symbol of victory over death and the grave and the means of our salvation!! Jesus wasn't mythological because people aren't willing to die as martyrs for something that they know is just made up and the resurrection is the only thing that could have transformed hopeless and frightened men into bold preachers of Jesus Christ!! They wouldn't have been sad and discouraged over a death that didn't happen at all. That's ridiculous!! There is the proof of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Buddhism wouldn't be here today without the Buddha's having lived, Rome wouldn't be here today without the founder of Rome's having lived, and Christianity wouldn't be here today without the founder Jesus Christ's having lived.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    This is just stupid. The coronavirus is airborne. It's not spread by necklaces. The virus also doesn't care what you believe.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Maybe she psychically charges it first, and wears it as a protection talisman, David.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Reverend Nick Page UK Funny how the nurse can wear her cross for 20 years before she gets told to remove it When my late mother was in nursing she always wore a nurses cape coming on duty and off duty Nurses should cover up their uniforms whilst going on /off duty .All manner if jewelry is worn these days I don't believe anyone has caught an infection from such I have spent time in hospitals and even see them wear false eyelashes. No harm done to me or anyone else Before people start shouting their mouths off We should have medical proof that nothing should be worn.The only time I take of my watch,hearing aid and cross is if I have an Xray or MRI scan on my brain

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Only the pretty ones should wear nothing, Nicholas.

  1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

    William Dusenberry, you prove by your absurd, illogical, and sad attempt at "humor" statement here that you don't know the difference between execution and suicide or know anything about the obvious reality of sin in the world, which is why Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from it. Your not believing that there is any such thing as sin, for which Jesus had to die on the cross to save people from it, and sin's not actually being real are two entirely different and polar opposite things because reality in the universe and world, thankfully, doesn't revolve around your very limited "understanding" of anything!!! The cross isn't grotesque, but a glorious symbol of Christ's death and resurrection!! Remind yourself of your position that "there is no sin in the world" the next time that you read about any murders, rapes, muggings, bank or other robberies, child molestation, or the Holocaust of the Jews or all other monumental and everyday evils happening in this world or when any of them happen to you!! No truly observant and intelligent person can fail to see or refuse to admit that there are sins in the world and, therefore, had to be a payment made for those sins to free all of us from them when we couldn't pay for them ourselves. That was the payment that Jesus made for all of us on the cross, which we couldn't make for ourselves. God didn't want to sacrifice His son on the cross, but Jesus sacrificed himself to pay for our sins out of love for all of us. Why would you mock and insult Jesus, who hasn't done anything against you and who loves you and all other people?!! You don't make any sense by doing that!! Do you also think that soldiers who are killed in wars defending their countries and fighting against tyranny and oppression from Nazis or anyone else have "actually committed suicide"? Do you also deny anything more important than anyone's life for which he or she might give up their life, such as defending your wife and children or other defenseless people from attack? That wouldn't be suicide, but noble self-sacrifice, and it is very sad that you don't know the difference between those two things! Do you think that prisoners today who are executed for capital crimes have also committed suicide? This isn't talking about the morality of executing criminals, but only about the fact of its being done and as long as it is, it is execution of criminals, and not their committing suicide. Hermann Goering committed suicide to save himself from execution, but anyone who doesn't kill himself while awaiting execution in prison will be executed when his sentence is carried out, and not kill himself. Jesus submitted his will to the will of his Father, just as a soldier in war does to the government ordering him to fight the enemy and risk dying in the process of doing that, and so no more committed suicide than the soldiers who die in war or anyone else who sacrifices his or her life for a higher ideal and responsibility than just self-preservation "commit suicide". We are in a war against the Evil One, who is out to harm, mislead, and destroy people and our world in every way that he can, and, just as in wars against human adversaries, death will sometimes be required of combatants against this Adversary, too. So, the martyrs who defended the truth of Christianity against the enemies of Christianity also didn't commit suicide, but, rather, nobly self-sacrificed themselves and died for something far higher than their own lives!! If I'm talking here to someone who is so morally bankrupt and amoral that you wouldn't even be willing to die to save your wife or children or friends or even strangers from attack and murder because you "think" that that would be your "committing suicide", which is what you sound like you are, then I could see your "reason" for "thinking" that "self-sacrifice is the same as suicide". So, are you admitting to being such a low down and low life person as that?!! Jesus' death on the cross isn't mythological because his disciples wouldn't have been depressed, hopeless and fearful over a death that didn't happen or willing to die as martyrs for a resurrection that didn't happen. They wouldn't have been transformed from hopeless and frightened men into bold preachers of Christ, except by his resurrection!! The Romans may have meant the cross to be an instrument of torture and death, but just as Jesus transformed death and despair into life and hope, the cross was also transformed from an instrument of torture and death into the symbol of Jesus' victory over death and the grave and bringing life out of that!!! That won't make any sense to you until you give your heart and mind over to Christ because these things are only spiritually discerned and understood and are "foolishness" to the ungodly.

    1. William Dusenberry's Avatar William Dusenberry

      John, when kamikaze pilots killed themselves, by dying for their particular God, they committed suicide (altruistic suicide) — and you’re correct, the mythological Jesus didn’t commit suicide, because it defies logic, that if a mythological (non-existant) anything ever does anything - under your warped logic, John, that such anything’s actually took place.

      Christianity, as with the Greek and Roman myths, are all mythological — so when a mythological person, who’s part of mythologial process, commits altruistic suicide (as most military recruits are trained to do — by convincing them that they are duty-bound, to die for a MAGA’er, such as DJT, it’s called “dying for one’s country”but it’s suicide nonetheless.

      You’re right though, John. Since a Roman torture device, metamorphized into a vampire repellent, there've been no more reported vampire attacks on humans who still believe in the mythological Jesus; which means that the the Christian cross is one of the greatest time-tested placebos ever spawned by the Romans (who, according to Judas) only murdered Christians who refused to acknowledge their loyalty to the Roman emperor.

      Bottom line, John —whenever one allows themselves to be tortured to death — especially by one’s father — you might not like to hear it — but it’s called suicide — and MEGA-types like you, John, are willing to give your lives (as shown by the 1/6/21 traitors) so that such myths can continue to be passed on, father, to son — and then to the Holy Ghost.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Don't seek to avoid sinning, John. It can be a lot of fun when done in the right way. I thought Jesus came into this word to promote homosexual orgies. That's why he needed twelve apostles.

    3. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      John, you certainly are long winded, the way ramble on and on about silly things. I hope you don't think it makes you sound any more credible.

  1. Thomas Edwin Peterson's Avatar Thomas Edwin Peterson

    wear it inside the issued surgical clothing so it doesn't have a chance of being lost during the surgery. if a prayer is requested stand aside and let other personnel do their work. hold the cross in hand in such a way as to be visible until prayer is finished then return it to a position under tunic. change gloves and return to duties. easy to do.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Yes, hold a metal object and look up at the ceiling and speak to it, or look down at the floor and speak to it, then put the metal object safely away. Am I the only one that thinks this sort of ritual is kind of weird?

      My main concern is having scientifically educated personnel performing none scientific rituals under the misguided impression they are speaking to something, which clearly isn’t there. Usually, people who talk to things that are not there are usually needing assistance in institutions, but amazingly, it seems to be OK by society if it appears they are speaking to some form of deity.

      I wonder how patients would feel if a nurse started doing a chant, and some form of ritual dance around your hospital bed jumping up and down shaking a rattle. You might laugh and find this comment kind of crazy, but in reality it is no different than someone holding a metal object and speaking to the floor or ceiling and then crossing themselves. 🤷🏼

      🦁❤️

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    You better hope there isn't anything dripping off of it, like the blood of Jesus, or it will ruin your shirt.

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