Cup of Tea?

Imagine the situation. You’re housebound and a nurse comes to change your dressing. Once she’s done that, she offers to make you a cup of tea. It’s not technically part of her professional role, but you’re the last call of the nurses’s day and she wants to do something more personal for you than just the bare necessities of her job. She cares. “No thanks”, you say, and so she leaves.

You then write a letter to the health authority saying that you weren’t offended by the offer to make you a cup of tea, but you’re worried that someone might be. The health authority agree, and they suspend the nurse while they “investigate the incident”.


Not half as silly as this.

Can anybody explain to me the legal difference between offering to pray for someone and offering to make them a cup of tea? Answers referring to the Mormons’ Word of Wisdom gain extra bonus points…

4 Comments on “Cup of Tea?

  1. Yes, “out of hand” it certainly seems to have got. All I can think of to say in the health authority’s defence is that budgetary constraints do make some public bodies live in terror any kind of possible lawsuit, even ones that they eventually win, so they tend to try to protect their backs in a rather exaggerated way. As for whether anyone ought to feel offended or threatened by such a question, of course they shouldn’t but not everyone thinks that way. For one thing, in this particular context, as the lady pointed out, some might think it means they are at death’s door; more generally, people who are worried about being pestered about religious matters might wonder whether it’s the thin end of a large wedge – after all people like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons are (rightly or not) notorious for striking up a conversation with a seemingly bland or innocuous question and then following by drawing people into a marathon session of discussion they feel rather swamped by. I mention this simply to point out how it might be possible for someone to get jittery whenever such topics are raised.
    It is of course possible that there are militant anti-Christians among the nurse’s employers but I don’t think we can be sure of this just from that report.

  2. “Not everyone thinks that way” just about sums up the problem. We are so busy as a society trying to accommodate every “view” under the sun that right and wrong depends entirely on the disposition of the person you are addressing. In any case, most of the people insisting that an offense has been committed are not speaking for themselves but on behalf of others whom they imagine might be offended. I have never heard a Muslim or Jew complain about how deeply offensive others imagine Christmas might be to Muslims or Jews.

    It is reported that the current Mormon president, Thomas S Monson, has always had a reputation for being pretty relaxed about his engagement with non-Mormons during his secular working life in publishing. A frequent flier, he was often given complimentary minatures of liquor on the plane, which he passes on to fellow businessmen not of his faith saying, “I think you could make better use of this than me.”

    Do get my brownie points now? Or is somenone going to be offended on behalf of people wih swarthy complexions because I said brown?

  3. I am exactly as offended by the idea that a nurse would offer to pray for me as I would be by a nurse telling you that there is no God.  Medical staff have no business imposing their religious views on their patients.


    I’m an atheist. I consider the idea of a God so mean that he needs to be prayed to for goodwill for others a fairly obscene one. Every employee of the health service has a right to their own religious beliefs, but they should not be allowed to introduce the topic of religion by any means with their patients. Doctors and nurses in particular have obligations and responsibilities which give them power over us in a vulnerable state, and there must therefore be an absolute ban on their trying to use that power to influence their patients’ religious beliefs.

    Whereas I don’t think anyone sees tea as contentious either way.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.