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Disciplining employee for quoting Bible is not discrimination

View profile for Sally Morris
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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.

In February 2014 Mr Trayhorn was the subject of a complaint that he had made comments, during a service, that same-sex marriage was wrong. In April 2014, Mr Trayhorn was instructed not to preach at services in the prison chapel in the future, although he could lead singing. In May 2014, Mr Trayhorn was duly leading the singing during a service but, during this time, felt led to share verses from the Bible and some thoughts about repentance from sin.

These events aroused further complaints and the prison instructed Mr Trayhorn that he could no longer volunteer at services. In addition, an investigation into the events and their context concluded that Mr Trayhorn had made homophobic comments. He was accordingly invited to a disciplinary hearing. Shortly thereafter, Mr Trayhorn 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.

The tribunal rejected his complaints, finding that Mr Trayhorn did not produce any evidence in support of suffering any disadvantage. 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, as well as a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims.

Mr Trayhorn appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal which dismissed the appeal.

This case is useful because it confirms that individuals will need to continue to establish disadvantage in religion or belief discrimination cases. In this case, Mr Trayhorn was not able to show that he as a Christian or that other Christians whether singly or as a group were disadvantaged by the prison’s conduct.