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Disciplining for quoting the Bible

Mr Trayhorn was employed by the Secretary of State as a gardener at a prison. The prison had a chapel, and employed full-time Chaplains. Mr Trayhorn was a Pentecostal Christian, and an ordained minister. As well as his role as a gardener, he volunteered in services in the prison chapel.

 

Mr Trayhorn was the subject of a complaint that he had made comments, during a service, that same-sex marriage was wrong. He was instructed not to preach at services in the prison chapel in the future, although he could lead singing. The next month, while he was leading the singing during a service he felt the need "to share … verses from the Bible and some thoughts about repentance from sin."

 

These events lead to further complaints and the prison instructed him that he could no longer volunteer at services. In addition, an investigation into the events and their context concluded that he had made homophobic comments. He was invited to a disciplinary hearing, the possible outcome of which was stated to be up to a final written warning. Shortly after, he went on sick leave and later resigned.

 

Mr Trayhorn issued employment tribunal proceedings claiming direct and indirect discrimination, relying on the protected characteristic of religion or belief.

 

He claimed that the application of two policies (a conduct policy and an equality policy) put employees who were of the Christian faith at a particular disadvantage because they were more likely to quote or discuss parts of the Bible that some might find offensive, resulting in complaints and disciplinary action under the policies. He also claimed that he had personally suffered this disadvantage.

 

The tribunal rejected his complaints, finding that Mr Trayhorn did not produce any evidence in support of either group or individual disadvantage.  Even if he could have produced evidence the tribunal went on to state that, if it had been necessary to do so, it would have found that the prison's policies:

 

  • Pursued a legitimate aim of retaining order and protecting prisoners within the prison environment.

 

  • Were a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims.

 

Mr Trayhorn appealed to the EAT which was dismissed.

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