Sunday, February 08, 2009

Is it officially permissible to be a Christian? Or indeed, anything?

Here in the Daily Mail is a sample of the hoo-ha about nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended for offering to pray for an elderly patient. (She also used to leave a mildly evangelical Christian pamphlet.) The patient says, "I have Christian beliefs myself, but it could perhaps be upsetting for some other people if they have different beliefs or thought that she meant they looked in such a bad way that they needed praying for."

Both parties seem reasonable and decent. What's worrying is what happens when officialdom gets involved, as the rest of the story shows.

But I'd love to see a Philadelphia lawyer let loose on the "Nursing and Midwifery Council code" (full text here) which Mrs Petrie is deemed to have breached. By implication, this code regulates not merely conduct, but opinions and even religious faith.

The code commands nurses to "Be open and honest, act with integrity" and straightaway gives a very contentious clarification of the term "integrity": "You must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity." The managers at the health organisation for which Mrs Petrie works clearly understand "equality and diversity" to cover religions. The logic of this is that Jews, Muslims and Christians (among others) cannot work as nurses - for note the word "personal" in that order. It may be that atheists would also be precluded.

All this results from two things: the State getting too big for its boots; and in attempting to govern every aspect of our lives has delegated insanely wide-ranging powers to quangos, who make and apply rules with a whim of iron. The professions and semi-professions - doctors, teachers, nurses and so on* - all have their own little councils to terrorise them. Such prodnosing easily magnifies a "storm in a teacup" into an issue that could affect your job, wealth, family life and physical liberty.

We need a Constitution to limit the powers of would-be tyrants, even if they are now soft-handed, well-dressed ones. Resist the Red Armani Choir.
* ... even foster parents.

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