Virtual Voices

Say "God bless you" and get fired?

Religion

This week, Duke Amachree, a British social worker, lost his appeal to get his job back. Amachree, a married father of two, had worked as a homelessness prevention officer for 18 years, but was let go last January.

Here's why his employer, the Wandsworth Council, fired him. Amachree was working with a client, who informed him that she had an incurable medical condition. According to Amachree, "She was in a state of absolute despair. It was out of compassion that I said to her: 'Sometimes the doctors don't have all of the answers.' I suggested she could put her faith in God. I said, 'Sometimes we read in newspapers, or see on television, instances where doctors have declared a patient's condition incurable but they went on and recovered.'"

Amachree said that the woman thanked him and left, without any apparent distress over his remarks.

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Two days later he was suspended. Since then, he's had two meetings with his former employer. A lawyer working for the Christian Legal Centre, Michael Phillips, was present at one of those meetings. According to Phillips, Amachree was told that he'd crossed inappropriate boundaries and that religion should never be discussed with a client. Phillips asked whether saying "God bless," for example, would qualify as an inappropriate comment. He was told that it would.

In a similar case, a British nurse was suspended from her job for offering to pray for an elderly patient's recovery. Her misdeed, according to her employer, was failing to demonstrate a "personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity." Fortunately, she was eventually reinstated.

These cases are frightening in and of themselves. So are the potential ramifications for the future of free speech, to say nothing of Christianity, in England. It turns out that George Orwell was prophetic: Newspeak has arrived.

Marcia Segelstein
Marcia Segelstein

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