News from Europe

British nurse fired for refusing to remove cross necklace

Mary Onuoha, a nurse formerly employed at Croydon University Hospital in Thorton Heath, England, has been “bullied” out of her position after years of pressure from hospital management.


“This has always been an attack on my faith,” Mrs. Onuoha said, “My cross has been with me for 40 years. It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm.”

Mrs. Onuoha, who became a nurse after her brother died from lack of medical care, moved from Nigeria to England in 1988 and began working at Croydon University Hospital in 2002. She wore her plain gold cross around her neck for years without complaints by either staff or patients.

In fact, when patients did remark on her necklace, they often expressed appreciation. “Patients often say to me ‘I really like your cross.’ They always respond to it in a positive way and that gives me joy and makes me feel happy. I am proud to wear it as I know God loves me so much and went through this pain for me.”

However, starting in 2015, hospital managers began to tell Mrs. Onuoha to remove or cover up her cross, which she refused to do. While the hospital cited safety concerns for the request, Mrs. Onuoha said other women who wore necklaces, bracelets, and other loose clothing were never asked to change.

“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. Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job.”

The matter came to a head when, in 2018 in the middle of a surgery Mrs. Onuoha was helping oversee, a hospital manager came into the surgery room and told her to conceal or take off her cross necklace. As a surgery was currently going on, Mrs. Onuoha refused both to hide her cross or leave her patient to store it. Mrs. Onuoha also noted how, in the very same surgery, the anesthetist wore a blue pendant and earrings but was never told to cover her jewelry or change.


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