Praying for Patients Is Common, But Comes With Legal Risk

Most healthcare workers want to offer spiritual care if the sick are open to it—but doing so cost a Pentecostal nurse in the UK her job.

A British nurse named Sarah Kuteh was fired from the hospital where she had worked for nearly a decade because she spoke with patients about her faith, passed out Bibles, and sang hymns on the job. Last month, a UK court rejected Kuteh’s most recent appeal.

“The Respondent employer did not have a blanket ban on religious speech at the workplace,” according to the court of appeals ruling. “What was considered to be inappropriate was for the Claimant [Kuteh] to initiate discussions about religion and for her to disobey a lawful instruction given to her by management.”

Kuteh is the latest in a string of cases of Christian medical workers in the UK who faced punishment for sharing their faith at work. Her lawyers at the Christian Legal Centre are considering further action as questions continue to come up around the appropriate place for religious expression in healthcare—particularly when a sizable number of patients indicate they welcome spiritual care from their providers.

The uproar around Kuteh initially broke in June 2016, when a cancer patient complained about what he characterized as her “very bizarre” behavior. The patient said Kuteh “told him that the only way he could get to the Lord was through Jesus,” and that she would give him a Bible if he didn’t have one.

Court documents also allege that Kuteh, a Pentecostal Christian, encouraged the patient to sing along as she sang Psalm 23 and that she held his hand tightly as she prayed an “intense” prayer that went “on and on.” On a hospital form, the patient had checked “open-minded” when asked about his religious beliefs. But in describing Kuteh’s actions to the court, …

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