Sarah Mbuyi was a nursery worker, dismissed for telling a lesbian colleague that the Bible regards the practice of homosexuality as a sin. Unfortunately, we only have her account of it. She worked for Newpark Childcare, a family run business with four locations in London. That small company now faces the Christian Legal Centre, determined to create a cause célèbre, and its chief executive Andrea Williams, a barrister, in a claim for unlawful discrimination on the ground of religious belief.
Mbuyi claims that a lesbian colleague found she was Christian, and repeatedly asked her about her beliefs, seeking to provoke her. When the woman went into hospital, Mbuyi made her a present of a bible because of her interest, which Mbuyi claims was received well. When the colleague returned to work, Mbuyi claims that she repeatedly pressed her about her religious beliefs about homosexuality, and when Mbuyi eventually said “if I tell you that God is OK with that I am lying to you,” the colleague went to complain to management.
Mbuyi claims that “My disciplinary hearing was hopelessly one-sided because they put my accuser’s claims to me as fact, without any forewarning and so I wasn’t prepared. It seemed to me they had already made up their minds to justify sacking me, before hearing my side of the story.” Asked if she would read stories to the children featuring same-sex parents, she said no.
The account does not hold water. Vindictive lesbian baits innocent Christian, and the first time Mbuyi utters her religious belief on homosexuality she is sacked? So says A Scottish Calvinist. I doubt a tribunal would be persuaded. We have not heard the response.
The employer is entitled to form a reasonable view. Faced with two accounts of the incident, they do not have absolute proof of either, but a tribunal will not second-guess their decision unless it is clearly wrong.
The instruction to read a story featuring same sex parents is “indirect discrimination”. The same instruction might be given to all employees, but would disadvantage Mbuyi with her particular religious views. However the discrimination is lawful because it is justified: it is a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of standing up for the equality and value of gay people including gay children. She is not dismissed for her beliefs, but for expressing them in an offensive way.
The Christian Legal Centre seeks to bully the employer and gain publicity, in the hope that other “Christians” will be able to be vile to gay colleagues.
Added: Mbuyi won. There is a human right to express “religious beliefs” even though they are toxic and cause direct harm to other people.