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Response to criticism on Facebook of Christian Concern and the case of Rev Trayhorn

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Andrea Williams has written a response to some criticism, that recently appeared on Facebook, of one of our legal cases (Barry Trayhorn). Andrea explains that legal judgments do not necessarily reflect all the facts or evidence involved in our cases. We are proud to be supporting Barry and many others who are facing miscarriages of justice because of their Christian faith.
 
Background: Andrea's recent article explaining the case of Barry Trayhorn, who was forced to resign from his job at HMP Littlehey
 

 

Dear Peter,

Forgive me for not responding to your post immediately. I was involved in other case matters at the time, and I always have to think carefully about how to respond to all criticism, whether personal or directed at the ministry of Christian Concern. This is in part because we are so busy with the work, and it is vital we get on with it, rather than being distracted or unduly upset by often unfair criticism based on a limited version or understanding of the facts.

As your criticism on Barry Trayhorn has gained some traction I, and my colleagues, have taken the decision to respond to you to seek to set the record straight. I have taken the time to write to you from a wonderful holiday with my family.

In short, we do not believe your comments to be either an accurate or a fair criticism of us. In making your assertions, you were not fully familiar with the facts of our cases, nor the workings of our courts. Nor did you take into account the heightened level of intolerance and discrimination sometimes exhibited by judges towards Christian claimants.

I would be delighted to speak with you, meet with you, if you want to chat through understanding our cases. I have made an open offer to all that critique us in such a fashion to come to our offices and to spend some time with our legal team. Indeed our clients are always pleased and willing to explain their cases and would also welcome a supportive presence during their court hearings.

I hope the following will provide a satisfactory response to the points you addressed in your post, regarding the case of Rev Barry Trayhorn.

 

Courts

1.      The role of the courts is to determine issues of conflicting evidence. They hear from both parties to a claim and then make a determination of what they believe the factual findings to be. Like all humans, particularly in our highly politicised world, judges bring in their subjective biases in making such determinations. This was the case in both the Victoria Wasteney and Barry Trayhorn cases. The courts hear two versions of events and must decide who to believe. That does not mean that what the Court then finds is true. Sadly we are used to hostile courts making extensive findings against Christians on every factual point (as in this case).

2.      If a case was truly hopeless, it would be struck out, not going on appeal often to the European Court.

 

 Introduction to Rev Trayhorn case:

3.      The judgment you reference, in relation to Barry's case, (the judgment of the Employment Tribunal (ET)) has been superseded by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) judgment which we also lost. The legal question the EAT (the Higher Court) realised it had to determine was whether the Prison authorities were subject to national or European law.

4.      The Judge at the EAT held that the correct test was national law, but we argued that the result would be different if the European law test had been used.We argued that the Court was bound to determine the case under the Human Rights Act 1998, which applies the European Convention on Human Rights in national law. This would have given Rev Trayhorn far more stringent protections regarding his religious freedom and ability to manifest his faith at a national level than does the Equality Act 2010. The technical nature of both the procedure and the legal arguments shows the danger of criticism by persons who are not familiar with all of the facts or the workings of our courts. The failure of the EAT to analyse Barry's rights under the Human Rights Act 1988 is now subject to appeal. We are appealing to the Court of Appeal on that point on law.

 

Factual Findings:

5.      As explained above the Judge and lay members of the bench at the Employment Tribunal make factual findings, but whilst in law they are binding, they don't tell the full story.

6.      For example, in paragraph [9] of the ET judgment, it is noted that a former inmate, Darren Russell, gave evidence. His evidence was (and we can show you the witness statement) that he had been a hardened sex offender; that he had been saved by the Gospel given by Barry and that he was now successfully in self-employment. He also testified that homosexual activists were voluntarily attending the Pentecostal service and disrupting it by mocking and laughing throughout. None of this was related in the factual findings of the Court. Even if the Judge does not mention this  we are entitled to say that this is true.

7.      Also, the complainant who set off the chain of events that ended with Barry leaving the prison, as we understand it from Barry, is a sex offender who had raped 2 young boys. Our Counsel's application to cross-examine the central figure in this entire case, Barry's accuser, was denied. We wanted to elicit evidence from him that activists, including himself, attended the service to silence the Gospel message on sexual ethics. This is not in the Judgment either but we are entitled to say that this is our position (similarly, Victoria Wasteney was also refused the right for us to cross-examine her accuser).

 

Security Clearance was not a relevant legal issue: Barry was disciplined for 'homophobic' comments:

8.      In paragraph [10.11-12] of the ET judgment, the tribunal relays the fact that a complaint was received by the 'Real Voices' co-ordinator because of Barry's opposition to same sex marriage; and he was stopped from preaching because he lacked security clearance. We accept that the tribunal found that the reason for preventing him from preaching was the lack of security clearance but that finding leaves many of our main arguments unanswered. It does not disclose, for example, that his lack of security clearance was used as a pretext to prevent him from preaching further; that he had previously preached regularly over a long period of time; that he had security clearance to work at the prison and that the lack of security clearance had never been raised or previously enforced during a sustained period of involvement in the chapel services; that the issue of security clearance was never brought up prior to his quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; or that security clearance is typically a measure used only in relation to Islamic extremists.

In any event, this issue is a red herring!  Barry was disciplined for making a "homophobic" comment in quoting 1 Cor 6:9 as this was deemed derogatory to homosexuals.

9.  The primary evidence of the dispute is in ET [10.19-20] where it is established that the Rev Trayhorn (whose only role in that service was to lead worship) quoted the Bible verse 1 Cor 6: 9-11; and proceeded to make the following comment:

 

"You may want to complain about this but this is the Word of God. God loves you and wants to forgive you."

 

10.  Barry was thereafter investigated for the making of "homophobic statements" ET[10.21(viii)], referred to an internal Disciplinary Tribunal for the making of "homophobic statements" ET [10.21(xvi)], and disciplined for making "homophobic comments" ET [10.43-44] (with the issue of the order not to preach solely as a compounding factor paragraph ET [10.46]).

11.   The primary findings of the Employment Tribunal (ET 10.43-48) were:

a.      Rev Trayhorn was "guilty of making homophobic comments";

b.      Rev Trayhorn had made a "direct quote" from the Bible "and that particular piece of scripture was potentially derogatory to homosexuals"

c.       Rev Trayhornlacked "sensitivity" in his delivery;

d.      Homosexual prisoners attending the service were "upset and annoyed at the content of the delivery";

e.      Rev Trayhorn was "not sensitive" to the Equality Policy or the Equality Act 2010;

f.        Rev Trayhorn's personal integrity was acknowledged by the Prison Governor: but the quoting of Bible verses with comments during a Pentecostal service in a prison (with sex offenders) was "an inappropriate setting".

12.  Thus, regretfully, Peter, your reading of the case is inaccurate. It is a very long and complex judgment and errors can indeed be made. Rev Trayhorn was not disciplined for preaching without security clearance. This had no substantive relevance to the case and in any event, we wonder if the quoting of a Bible verse in a Pentecostal service whilst leading worship is 'preaching'. (The judge held it to be preaching)

 

Other Factual Issues:

13.  In response to the issue of Barry's competency as a prison gardener and the 5 complaints (made in humiliating circumstances) against him; it is determinative that these 5 complaints came after the complaint was filed against him for quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9. The only other complaint ever made against him in his years of service at the prison related to his forgetting to return some tools following his work on one occasion. The fact that a judge who showed animus towards Barry throughout the proceedings accepted all 5 complaints to be true, does not by definition make them true.

14. The ET Judge found that the Governor visiting Barry at home was an act of charity. Barry gave evidence of a very different scenario; that he was intimidated; threatened and warned he would be in trouble. The Judge said that the Governor was accurate; are we making a mistake in believing Barry? Of course, this is now a finding of fact by the Judge, but Barry is entitled to campaign as a miscarriage of justice and that this is not the truth.

15.   Judges are legal decision makers. Some judges are good, some are bad. The law nearly always can be manipulated or interpreted. The whole appeals' process exists for this very purpose. It took me a while to realise, as a young lawyer, that judges are not all impartial; they are human.

 

Conclusion

16.  Case selection is a complex matter. The reality is we don't 'select'; we seek to do justice where there has been an injustice. The fact is that almost every Christian liberties case will have complicated, and sometimes unflattering facts. However, these are precisely the cases that need to be fought for because of two very important reasons. First, as in Barry's case, the foundational principle being rigorously defended by Christian Concern is that a Christian should not be unjustly punished for manifesting his or her faith. No matter what pretext the prison used to dress up Barry's case, he was forced out of his job for one reason, and one reason only; that being that he shared a Biblical message of sexual ethics which offended some activist prisoners who came to the service to cause a disruption. Second, by defending the Barry Trayhorns and Victoria Wasteneys of the world, we are defending the rights of all Christians in the United Kingdom. When injustices occur and are not challenged, and knowing both Barry and Victoria very well as a result of these cases I can unequivocally call what happened to them injustices, legal protections for all Christians are weakened and undermined.

17.  I would like to assure all of our supporters that our cases are never frivolous, no matter what opposing voices may say. In many of our cases; from the Cross cases to the Bus cases, false findings are made as facts against our clients, usually at the very first hearing. Some of the findings of fact are grossly unfair, but there is nothing we can do about it; some are inferences from the facts that are wrong, some are Judicial comments without any basis; and some really are findings of law. 

18. This is why we need to condense complex issues for public consumption.

19. Our cases are vital for freedom. This is evidenced by the fact that our cases, more often than not, end either before the High Court or before the European Court of Human Rights. It should also be borne in mind that you do not hear about most of our cases because they are positively resolved before they reach the courts. We are very proud of our record, and count ourselves blessed, that Christian Concern has been directly responsible for a number of leading legal precedents being set in the United Kingdom and Strasbourg. This includes being involved in the first ever finding against the United Kingdom for a violation of religious freedom in the history of the European Court of Human Rights Eweida v United Kingdom [2013] ECHR 37. That case has now sets the new legal standard within the United Kingdom in how the Human Rights Act is to be applied to religious freedom cases.

20.  Some of us may not be comfortable with the Barry Trayhorns of this world; some of us may find their style too unrefined. I count it a great honour to be called by God to serve and defend Barry Trayhorn, Victoria Wasteney, Richard Page and the two hundred men and women (and the number is growing) who call us every year for help.                                             

I pray for wisdom, clarity and boldness as we enter a busy Autumn period at Christian Concern; that the Lord may continue to uphold us and that we would be able to tell the stories of our cases clearly so that many more will understand what is happening in our great nation and be moved to pray for change.

Yours sincerely,

Andrea Williams

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