Woman fired for answering lesbian’s church question
An employment tribunal in West London has ruled in favor of a nursery worker who was fired after she responded to a co-worker’s questions about her church.
The report comes from the Christian Legal Center, an organization that concerns itself with issues of abortion, employment, same-sex “marriage,” religious freedom and Islam, among other controversial topics.
“In a brave judgment, the Watford Employment Tribunal chaired by Judge Broughton, found unanimously that Miss (Sarah) Mbuyi had been directly discriminated against because of her belief that homosexual practice is contrary to the Bible,” the report said.
“The tribunal recognized that while the employer was ‘not anti-Christian’ Miss Mbuyi had not been treated fairly and that the decision to sack her may have been made on ‘stereotypical assumptions about her and her beliefs.’”
Mbuyi, 31, was dismissed from her work at the West London nursery after responding to questions from a co-worker, the lawyers explained.
“She explained the biblical position on homosexuality and marriage. On 6 January 2014 her colleague at the nursery initiated the conversation and had asked whether she would be welcomed at church and whether God would approve of her civil partnership and allow her to marry in church.”
Mbuyi said, “God is not OK with what you do,” but “everyone is a sinner and God offers forgiveness.”
“When I said, ‘No, God does not condone the practice of homosexuality, but does love you and says you should come to Him as you are,’
she became emotional and went off to report me to my manager,” Mbuyi recalled.
The co-worker was identified by her initials and first name in the court document, but the ruling noted there was a permanent anonymity order in place to protect her.
The employer, Newpark Childcare, where Mbuyi had worked since early 2013, fired her for “gross misconduct” three days later, telling her she “breached equality policies and that she had harassed her colleague.”
The case was pursued by human rights barrister Paul Diamond, who uncovered during the course of legal arguments that the co-worker “had clearly indicated that she had first expressly brought up her sexuality in conversation with Sarah,” “she was the first to raise the issue of Miss Mbuyi’s church,” “she asked what Miss Mbuyi believed God thought about her living arrangements” and “she acknowledged that she took the conversation into the arena of homosexuality.”
The tribunal found, among other things, the employer either “pre-judged the outcome accepting unchallenged evidence that supported the stereotypical assumption and/or interpreted Miss Mbuyi’s evidence in an almost impossible way.”
In grilling Mbuyi, her then-employer had asked if she believed that the coworker was “wicked.” Her response was, “Yes, we are all wicked.”
The dismissal letter, the tribunal’s order said, “went on to reference the claimant’s belief that [coworker] was ‘wicked’ before concluding that this belief was as a result of [coworker’s] sexual orientation.”
“That was not something borne out by the notes which did not expressly link the word to sexual orientation and the claimant indicated she believed everyone was wicked. It was, in any event, not something that was alleged to have been said to [coworker] by the claimant, either at the time or, indeed, subsequently. No explanation was offered regarding why it was referenced at all.”
Newpark Childcare’s dismissal letter also has charged that Mbuyi’s gift of a Bible for a “secret Santa” event among staff members had demonstrated “that the claimant had ‘specifically targeted [coworker] because of her sexual orientation’ and that ‘this constitutes harassment.’”
“That was an untenable finding,” the tribunal’s decision, which was based on the European Convention on Human Rights, explained.
The decision noted: “The issues in this case arose out of the claimant’s belief that homosexuality is a sin. Such a belief has effectively already been accepted by the higher courts … as capable of amounting to one that attracts the protection of the Equality Act 2010. It was a genuinely held belief that was more than an opinion or viewpoint and had attained a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance. It is a belief worth of respect in a democratic society, is not incompatible with human dignity and is not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”
Damages were addressed by the tribunal only in that the judge wrote: “We are aware the claimant swiftly secured equivalent work and she gave evidence of little injury to her feelings. It is hoped that the parties may be able to resolve these and other remedy matters. If not they should provide dates of availability for August-October.”
Christian Legal Center CEO Andrea Minichiello Williams called it a “common sense” judgment that “shows understanding of the Christian faith and Miss Mbuyi’s freedom to live and speak it out in the work place.”
Mbuyi, who now is working elsewhere, told the legal center, “I hope that my previous employer and colleagues are well and will understand from this that my intention was for their best.”
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