Sacked Christian nursery worker wins discrimination claim

12 June 2015

pa

Christian nurse: Sarah Mbuyi outside the employment tribunal in Watford, on 2 March, where she won her claim against her former employer

Christian nurse: Sarah Mbuyi outside the employment tribunal in Watford, on 2 March, where she won her claim against her former employer

A CHRISTIAN nursery worker, Sarah Mbuyi, who was sacked after she told a colleague that homosexuality was a sin has won her discrimination claim against her former employer.

Ms Mbuyi was dismissed from Newpark Childcare, in Shepherd's Bush, west London, for gross misconduct after telling a lesbian colleague that her gay lifestyle was wrong. In a conversation initiated by her colleague, who cannot be named for legal reasons, she explained that she believed God "was not OK" with homosexuality.

Her colleague was upset, and told managers, who began a disciplinary action against Ms Mbuyi, which led to her dismissal for gross misconduct three days later.

Ms Mbuyi, a Belgian national, had been working at the nursery for nine months, and had formerly given her colleague a gift of a Bible, which had been accepted without complaint.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, she argued that she had been discriminated against because of her Christian beliefs.

The ruling by the Watford tribunal found that, although the directors of the nursery were not "anti-Christian", they made "stereotypical assumptions" about the beliefs of Evangelical Christians, and did not attempt to investigate these assumptions.

The tribunal judges found that Ms Mbuyi, although sometimes "overly" enthusiastic about speaking about her beliefs, did not force them on others.

In their written judgment, they ruled that she had been discriminated against because of her belief that homosexual practice was contrary to the Bible.

The ruling found that her belief was one that was "worthy of respect in a democratic society, is not incompatible with human dignity, and is not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others".

The judges also ruled that the employer's policy that there was a "prohibition on employees' expressing adverse views on homosexuality and/or describing homosexuality as a sin" would have a "disparate impact on Christians holding similar views to Ms Mbuyi on the biblical teachings on practising homosexuality.

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"That is not merely because a significantly higher proportion of Christians would hold such views, but also because many Evangelical Christians feel their faith compels them to share it."

The chief executive officer of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams, welcomed the "brave decision" of the tribunal. calling it a "common sense judgment which shows understanding of the Christian faith and Miss Mbuyi's freedom to live and speak it out in the work place."

Ms Mbuyi, who is now employed as a nanny elsewhere, said this week: "I only ever responded to questions that my colleague asked me, and wanted the very best for her."

The President of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson, said: "Although we think the tribunal came to the right decision in this case, it does illustrate that when people try to evangelise in the workplace, it can so easily lead to conflict with colleagues.

"It is significant that Ms Mbuyi was thought by some fellow employees to be too ready to 'look for opportunities to share her faith when she felt she was being invited to do so'.

The case, he said, "did not create a precedent"; and the ruling showed that Christians were protected by discrimination law.

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