Thursday, October 04, 2007

a victory for good sense

I am delighted to see that this employment tribunal made the correct decision in upholding the rights of LGBT people against someone distributing hate literature (mistranslated and taken out of context from the Bible) against them:
Sexual orientation and religion or belief cases
A significant Employment Tribunal case on the overlap between religion or belief and sexual orientation discrimination law is Mr T Apelogun-Gabriels v London Borough of Lambeth (2301976/05 (5016/62) Feb 2006): The complainant, a Christian, was dismissed for distributing ‘Biblical extracts’ to members of work-based prayer group and ‘interested parties’. He used a search mechanism on a CD of the Bible to locate, download and printout a range of quotes which his employers, the London Borough of Lambeth, considered homophobic, and distributed the literature across the workplace. The Tribunal said that the “material … on any view was totally hostile to those of a homosexual sexual orientation” and the fact that the employer provided a prayer room showed that it did not seek to discriminate on grounds of religion or belief.

The tribunal concluded that a non-Christian who distributed similar literature would have been treated in a similar fashion and that it was the complainant’s conduct in distributing homophobic literature which was the reason for his dismissal, not his religious beliefs.

This is an important case on the dividing line between religion or belief and sexual orientation discrimination. It makes clear that tribunals will be reluctant to give latitude to homophobic actions apparently based on the religious beliefs of the perpetrators. It is an example of the delicate balancing act between religion or belief and sexual orientation discrimination. Equal opportunities policies should take account of both. However, clashes between the two will cause difficulties. Many trade union representatives and employers will be inclined to treat any homophobic behaviour with the utmost seriousness and will examine with scepticism claims that it is protected by the religion or belief Regulations. The outcome of Apelogun-Gabriels should encourage them that that is the right approach, but situations may arise in which the finding the right balance between the two is more difficult.

The full report is available at

~ from UCU Equality and Employment Rights newsletter

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