Retired chaplain, 77, banned from wearing half-inch Christian cross while volunteering at a hospice

‘I was stunned and upset’: Retired chaplain, 77, is banned from wearing a half-inch Christian cross while volunteering at a hospice

  • Derek Timms ‘never received a single complaint’ in five years as a chaplain 
  • The 73-year-old was told it might ‘create a barrier’ between him and the patients
  • Mr Timms was told he was not allowed to work there until he removed the cross

A chaplain has won an apology after charity chiefs banned him from wearing a Christian cross at the hospice where he volunteered. 

Retired businessman Derek Timms spent five years comforting terminally ill patients and their families at the Solihull Marie Curie hospice in Birmingham, wearing a tiny half-inch pin on his jumper as a symbol of his faith. 

The devout 73-year-old says he never received a single complaint, but in September a new Methodist minister in charge of the chaplaincy told him he was not allowed to wear it as it might ‘create a barrier’ between him and the patients. 

Chaplain Derek Timms was told he was not allowed to wear a cross as it might 'create a barrier' with the terminally ill patients he comforted at the Solihull Marie Curie hospice in Birmingham

Chaplain Derek Timms was told he was not allowed to wear a cross as it might ‘create a barrier’ with the terminally ill patients he comforted at the Solihull Marie Curie hospice in Birmingham

Dee Yeadon told Mr Timms: ‘No religious symbols should be worn by those engaged in spiritual care. We need to be there for people of all faiths and none.’ 

Mr Timms vowed to keep the cross as it showed he was a ‘Christian chaplain’ and questioned whether the same rule applied to Sikhs with turbans and Muslims wearing a burka or prayer dress. 

After he refused to remove the cross, Mr Timms was told he would need ‘re-training’– and would not be allowed to work as a chaplain if he continued to wear it. 

But with the support of the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Timms eventually received an ‘unreserved apology’ from Marie Curie. 

The charity also admitted it had no policy on banning religious symbols and the request had been made in error. 

Last night, Mr Timms said: ‘I was completely stunned and upset. I felt she had no right to stop me from wearing the cross. 

‘At Marie Curie, I prayed with Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. I prayed for Christians and non-Christians, the religious and nonreligious. I prayed for everyone and no one has ever been offended until now. 

‘I would possibly understand if it was a huge cross but it’s the size of a thumbnail. It’s just bonkers.’ 

Mr Timms, who has received an apology, said he could 'possibly understand if it was a huge cross but it's the size of a thumbnail' and described the prohibition as 'bonkers'

Mr Timms, who has received an apology, said he could ‘possibly understand if it was a huge cross but it’s the size of a thumbnail’ and described the prohibition as ‘bonkers’

The widowed grandfather-of-eight added: ‘They definitely would not have behaved in this way if it was another religion.’ 

Mr Timms has since stopped working at Marie Curie and now works as a community chaplain at his local church. 

Last night, Marie Curie reiterated its apology to Mr Timms, although Rev Yeadon did not respond to a request for comment. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘Derek never had a single complaint until now for wearing his tiny cross. 

‘He showed great courage by refusing to cave into the significant pressure to remove what mattered so much to him.’ 

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