Gary McFarlane had worked for Relate since 2003. He was disappointed with the hostility he had experienced from Relate. Although Mr McFarlane had never had to provide sex therapy to a same sex couple, he thought that if the situation did arise, he would be able to discuss his Christian views with his supervisors so that his position could be discussed and if necessary accommodated. Any such discussions were, however, pre-empted by unexpected meetings between Mr McFarlane and his manager in October 2007 when he was asked to state his views
regarding same sex couples. Despite explaining that he would counsel couples in compliance with Relate's Equal Opportunities Policy, and that he would raise any issues with his supervisors and manager, as good practice required, Mr McFarlane was suspended in early January 2008 and then dismissed in March 2008.
Mr McFarlane was given no other choice than to subject his religious faith to
the Equal Opportunities Policy.
However, although he won his wrongful dismissal claim, the Tribunal held that
his claim of religious discrimination should fail. The Tribunal recognised
powerful arguments on both sides, but held that the provision of non
discriminatory services was important.
Andrea Minichiello Williams Director of the Christian Legal Centre said : 'The
law is in a confused state; in the case of Lillian Ladele, the Islington
Registrar, the Court held that Christian belief must give way to the rights of
same sex couples; but in the case of Gary McFarlane there is a finding of
wrongful dismissal. The courts and public are confused; we call on the
Government to recognise the legitimate expression of conscience by Christians
in the area of sexual orientation and provide protection where necessary.'
Mr. McFarlane said that: 'If I were a Muslim, this would not have happened. But
Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights'
Muslim prisoners for sex offences may opt out of therapy (Times 9 April 2008)
Non Muslim father banned from Swimming Pool (Telegraph 18/4/08)
Magistrate investigated for refusing evidence in veil (BBC 8/1/08)
Betts Awards 'Three Little Pigs' too offensive (BBC)
Andrea Minichiello Williams continued:- 'It is important to note that Mr.
McFarlane has never refused to counsel a same sex couple; he merely raised the
potential conflict between his Christian faith and homosexual conduct. It is
deeply disturbing that the mere expression of religious belief with an
inability to give unqualified support to sexual orientation issues means that a
Christian can be dismissed with no attempt to provide suitable accommodation
for his or her beliefs. The law preventing religious discrimination against
Christians is in danger of becoming a dead letter'.
Link to Judgment - http://www.ccfon.org/docs/reserved_judgment_20090501.pdf