thanks to Fr Tim for the pictureLast night I was up in town for the blognic with Fr Z, Fr T and Fr G, along with James Bradley. It was a good time, there were a few other bloggers, and readers too. I always enjoy meeting people who rejoice in their faith and want to share it.
But that is not what I wanted to draw your attention to; someone came to us for help and we didn't respond.
A lady introduced herself to me, then someone else interrupted, so I didn't have the chance to speak to her, I think she said she was Margaret Forrester, I had a vague recollection of her name, she also mentioned Neil Addison, the Human Rights lawyer, she did say to someone else that she wanted to talk about her situation.
When I got home late I found I had received this email from Neil:
On 15th November the Central London Employment Tribunal will begin to hear the case of Margaret Forrester v Central London NHS Trust. She is being represented by Mr Neil Addison, Barrister and Director of the Thomas More Legal Centre. The case is an important one not just for Catholics and other Christians but for everyone who believes in Freedom of Speech.My appologies to Margaret for not making time for her. If you can help her in anyway through prayer, publicity of her case, or financially please do so.
Margaret Forrester was employed by the NHS as a Mental Health worker and in the course of a conversation with an NHS colleague who worked as a receptionist organising Abortion appointments she gave her colleague a booklet called "Forsaken" in which 5 women who have had Abortions talk about their experience of Abortion and how it affected them.
A few days after the booklet was given to the receptionist Margaret was suspended and subsequently disciplined for "Gross Misconduct" the wording of the Disciplinary Charge was
"You distributed material which individuals may find offensive" which is described in the Statement of Case presented to the Tribunal as a charge which is "so vague as to be meaningless"
Margaret was given a final written warning and told she would be moved to another department. She subsequently objected to the move and was then sacked.
It is very important to note that
The Booklet was NOT given to any NHS patient and it was never suggested by Margaret that it should be given to any patient
The conversation between Margaret and her colleague was cordial and the colleague did not object to receiving the booklet and has never suggested that it was forced on her. Indeed the NHS are not even calling her as a witness in the Employment case.
The Booklet simply consists of Five women talking about their own experiences of Abortion and how they felt about it then and afterwards. It does NOT say that Abortion is a sin though some of the women say that is how they now regard it
The Booklet does NOT contain any graphic images or descriptions of Abortion
Margaret had NOT given this or any similar booklet to any colleagues in the NHS before and had never been told that she was not allowed to do so
In their defence given to the Tribunal the NHS states that their reason for disciplining Margaret is because the Forsaken booklet offered a "religious view" on Abortion ie they admit they objected to it because it is religious. They objected to it because one of the women who has had an Abortion said that she now regards what she did as a sin. They ignore the fact that as a Mental Health worker Margaret had to be concerned with whether women who have had Abortions would suffer mental health problems.
What the NHS has done to Margaret is something which even supporters of Abortion should be concerned about because it goes to the heart of the issue of free speech within the NHS and within Society as a whole.
Besides bringing the Employment Tribunal case the Thomas More Legal Centre would also like to bring a case under the Human Rights Act for breach of Margarets right to freedom of speech but to do that we first need to build up a fund to cover Margarets liability for costs should she lose. Margaret is being represented by the Centre on a pro-bono basis so we are not charging her for representing her.
Through your Blog the Thomas More Legal Centre would ask your readers for their prayers and support on the 15th November and during that week. If anyone would like to offer any financial support we would be grateful. Details of how to donate are at www.thomasmorelegal.org.uk/donate.htm