Sarah Mbuyi

Sarah MbuyiSarah 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 thaAndrea Williamst 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.” Shirley Chaplin lostAsked 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.

9 thoughts on “Sarah Mbuyi

  1. Well said! Reading a story to children that features a same sex couple hardly discriminates against a reader/carer with “traditional” views, regardless of how strongly these views are held. There is no loss to the reader, no disrespect, no cramping of conscience. Those holding “traditional” views seek to have protected under the law, their rights to be narrow minded. Well, they have that right, so long as they don’t insult others…. xxx 🙂

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    • I am glad I do not have to make these decisions. Should Muslims have to sell pork or alcohol? Yes, I think, if they work in a supermarket, but I feel a little uncomfortable about that. A safety rule applicable to necklaces should certainly apply to crosses, and if people’s first thought on seeing a cross or ichthus is “A narrow-minded, disapproving person” we have ourselves to blame.

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  2. “Asked if she would read stories to the children featuring same-sex parents, she said no” Surely comments like that seal the case. It’s not a privately held religious view that doesn’t affect her work.

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    • That is the point. You cannot be sacked for beliefs, but you can be sacked for acts. Here, the question is, did the investigating manager reasonably believe that Mbuyi said that to her colleague. She cannot win unless she produces a case that the manager did not.

      The other thing: who is the bad guy here? Christian, hopelessly out of touch with real morality because of the fantasies of her “belief”; or vicious persecuting lesbian, etc etc. The answer is obvious!!- but different, for different audiences.

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  3. It is possible to express your beliefs offensively; it is also possible to express them inoffensively, but have some over-sensitive person take them as being offensive. Since it is not possible to judge, the employer will go with whomever he favors, or is less afraid of.
    A few years ago, some paranoid Christians were complaining that true believers would be persecuted if gay marriage were legalized. They were called idiots. “Of course not, we are not trying to impinge on your religious freedom, we are just looking for a little space for our own freedom!”
    Now here in the US, every few months, like clockwork, someone becomes the object of boycotts and threats and even been fired for expressing what always and everywhere, for the whole history of humanity until about 2009, has been an unremarkable, even obvious idea, even in gay friendly cultures: that gay marriage is an oxymoron.
    You can’t redefine right and wrong and expect everyone to abide and get along.

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    • I distinguish between expressing a view, and going further. The bloke from Mozilla, and Chick FilA, gave money to campaigns against equal marriage. That is more than expressing a view. And, when someone expresses a view, others are entitled to find that view beyond the pale, and refuse to associate further with them.

      A born-again Christian at my office attempted to convert me, and I attempted to convert her. I gained respect for her sincerity, but I found her belief in Jonah as a historical figure inexplicable. That was all very well, but later she told me “You are depressed because you are estranged from God”. To me, that crossed a line. She exploited my vulnerability. Some would say any attempt to snatch a brand from the burning is justified.

      With Sarah Mbuyi, we have a partisan account for political purposes. I doubt it will come to tribunal. In 2011/12 only a quarter of religious belief discrimination cases were cleared within 18 weeks: a quarter took 1-2 years.

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      • I’d normally agree that there is a distinction between government coercion and social pressures like boycotts. The Mozilla CEO’s case was more disturbing: his confidential tax records had been leaked to a pro-gay marriage group, and he was singled out in a campaign to get him fired from his job. Maybe not illegal, but a disgusting moral hysteria and cruel vindictiveness.
        Maybe you are right and the case you mention is partisan; I don’t follow UK news.
        And your coworker did cross a line: if anyone tried to psychoanalyze me and hazard a guess as to the state of my relationship with God, I would do the Christian thing and cordially invite him to go fuck himself. No one can judge another’s heart, Jesus was clear on that.

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