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Pro-Life Mental Health Worker Reaches Settlement in dispute over pro-life booklet

by | Aug 15, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Margaret Forrester

Margaret Forrester, a British mental health worker, has reached an out of court settlement in her suit against her former employer which had sacked her for “gross professional misconduct.” What had she done? Distribute a booklet titled “Forsaken–Women From Taunton Talk About Abortion,” composed of the stories of five women who experienced post-abortion syndrome.

The Thomas More Legal Centre, which represented Miss Forrester, announced that the case had been settled for an undisclosed sum, according to the Daily Telegraph. (Under the agreement, neither side could provide details.) The settlement also covered the case Forrester was due to bring to an employment tribunal later this year “alleging unfair dismissal, religious discrimination and religious harassment,” according to the Telegraph’s John Bingham.

“Margaret Forrester wishes to thank all those many people who have supported her and prayed for her throughout this difficult time and in particular has said that she wants to thank the Thomas More Legal Centre for its support and work on her behalf,” a spokesman for the Thomas More Legal Centre said. “The Thomas More Legal Centre is privileged to have been able to represent Margaret Forrester in this important case and stands ready to support any other NHS employee who may find themselves being threatened for expressing religious or pro-life views.”

As NRL News Today first reported in December 2010, Forrester said she informally shared “Forsaken” with a colleague, not with patients. Miss Forrester was worried that women seeking medical advice were routinely offered abortions without fully considering alternatives.

In her lawsuit Forrester had accused her former employers, the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, of violating her freedom of religion and freedom of expression rights.

According to the Christian Post, Forrester, who is Roman Catholic and formerly had served as a ‘psychological well-being practitioner’ for the trust, was allegedly called into a meeting with management about a week after handing her co-worker the booklet in early November 2010. She was then ‘interrogated in a demeaning manner about the booklet and her pro-life views,’ the lawsuit claims, and was suspended from her work.

The Post continued,

 “When she returned to work a week later, she was allegedly told to do ‘demeaning’ tasks and was not permitted to do any clinical work. She claims the stress she experienced ‘from the harassment she was subjected to’ even forced her to take some days off from work.

“In early December [2010] she was called into another meeting where she told management that, given the opportunity to do it again, she would still give her colleague the booklet. In late January she was found guilty of ‘gross misconduct’ for giving away the booklet and ‘gross insubordination’ for saying she would do it again.

“She was also accused of distributing information that ‘individuals may find offensive’ in an earlier meeting, the suit claims, and it was made clear during the disciplinary procedure that Forrester’s employers opposed the booklet because it was ‘religious in tone.’”

So why was she fired? Ultimately, the suit stated, because she refused to accept her new position at work, which her attorneys describe as a “punishment posting” and a role that she felt was inappropriate for someone with her particular skills and training.

The Trust’s position, according to Bingham, was “that although Miss Forrester had been disciplined for refusing to stop distributing anti-abortion literature to NHS staff, she was ultimately dismissed for ‘refusing to work.’” It also insisted the booklet offered an “unbalanced and one-sided view.”

In its suit the Thomas More Legal Centre argued that “If abortion is as problem free as the NHS claims then there should be no objection to the subject being discussed amongst Health Service professionals.”  A spokesman for the Thomas More Legal Center told The Telegraph newspaper, “If employees of the NHS cannot even discuss the subject of abortion with their colleagues then this means that the NHS has become a dangerously totalitarian organisation with no regard for freedom or diversity.”

It is noteworthy that, according to the Thomas More Legal Centre, “At no point in the disciplinary process was it ever suggested that the person who was given the booklet or indeed anyone else had in fact found it offensive.”

Margaret Forrester, a Roman Catholic, was dismissed after a dispute which stemmed from her giving a colleague an anti-abortion booklet.

She was told that the booklet, highlighting potential physical and psychological damage some women suffer after an abortion, amounted to “offensive” material.

Miss Forrester, 40, from Battersea, south London, lodged a High Court action against her former employer, the North West London NHS Trust, accusing it of breaching her human rights.

She claimed that the NHS had become “dangerously totalitarian” on the issue of abortion.

She was also due to go to an employment tribunal later this year alleging unfair dismissal, religious discrimination and religious harassment.

But last night the Thomas More Legal Centre, the charity representing Miss Forrester, announced that both cases had been settled for an undisclosed sum.

material was informally shared with a colleague, not with patients. As we reported at the time Ms. Forrester was worried that women seeking medical advice were routinely offered abortions without fully considering alternatives.

Well, working with attorneys from the Thomas More Legal Centre, Forrester has now filed a lawsuit accusing her former employers, the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, of violating her freedom of religion and freedom of expression rights. According to the Christian Post Forrester, who is Roman Catholic and formerly served as a ‘psychological well-being practitioner’ for the trust, was allegedly called into a meeting with management about a week after handing her co-worker the booklet in early November 2010. She was then ‘interrogated in a demeaning manner about the booklet and her pro-life views,’ the lawsuit claims, and was suspended from her work.

“When she returned to work a week later, she was allegedly told to do ‘demeaning’ tasks and was not permitted to do any clinical work. She claims the stress she experienced ‘from the harassment she was subjected to’ even forced her to take some days off from work.

“In early December she was called into another meeting where she told management that, given the opportunity to do it again, she would still give her colleague the booklet. In late January she was found guilty of ‘gross misconduct’ for giving away the booklet and ‘gross insubordination’ for saying she would do it again.

“She was also accused of distributing information that ‘individuals may find offensive’ in an earlier meeting, the suit claims, and it was made clear during the disciplinary procedure that Forrester’s employers opposed the booklet because it was ‘religious in tone.””

According to the Thomas More Legal Centre, “At no point in the disciplinary process was it ever suggested that the person who was given the booklet or indeed anyone else had in fact found it offensive,” TMLC states in her defense.”

So why was she fired? Ultimately, the suit states, because she refused to accept her new position at work, which her attorneys describe as a “punishment posting” and a role that she felt was inappropriate for someone with her particular skills and training.

“The attitude of the NHS in the Margaret Forrester case is not only harmful to its employees. By limiting free discussion of the experiences of patients who have had abortions or any other type of medical treatment the NHS is harming the interests of patients,” Thomas More Legal Centre argues. “If abortion is as problem free as the NHS claims then there should be no objection to the subject being discussed amongst Health Service professionals.”

A spokesman for the Thomas More Legal Center told The Telegraph newspaper, “If employees of the NHS cannot even discuss the subject of abortion with their colleagues then this means that the NHS has become a dangerously totalitarian organisation with no regard for freedom or diversity.”

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