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Christian prison worker to appeal Tribunal ruling over right to quote Bible in chapel service

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Issued by the Christian Legal Centre

 

News Release
For immediate release
26 April 2017
 

Christian prison worker to appeal Tribunal ruling over right to quote Bible in chapel service

Barry Trayhorn will appear at the Employment Appeal Tribunal tomorrow (THU 27 APR) to challenge the Employment Tribunal's ruling that he was not discriminated against because of his Christian faith when he was disciplined by Littlehey Prison for explaining a Bible passage during a Christian chapel service. 

A Christian prison worker who felt he had no option but to resign after being disciplined for quoting from the Bible during a prison chapel service, will challenge an Employment Tribunal's ruling that the prison was right to discipline him.

In March 2016, the Employment Tribunal ruled that Barry Trayhorn was not discriminated against because of his Christian faith, and that the prison had acted properly in disciplining him.

Mr Trayhorn, an ordained Pentecostal minister, worked as a prison gardener and volunteered in chapel at HMP Littlehey, a prison for sex offenders.

But after he spoke during a prison chapel service about the wonder of God's forgiveness for those who repent, he received an aggressive response from prison authorities and eventually resigned.


Harassed because of Christian faith

Mr Trayhorn started work at the prison as a gardener in May 2011, and in 2012 started to assist at some chapel services on a voluntary basis.

During a service in May 2014, Mr Trayhorn spoke of God's forgiveness for those who repent, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from memory. The verses speak of people who had been forgiven a number of sins, including adultery, greed, drunkenness and homosexual sexual activity.

But four days after the service, a complaint was made about Mr Trayhorn's orthodox Christian teaching, and he was immediately barred from participating in future chapel services. Over the following weeks, a series of issues were raised about his conduct as a gardener at the prison, prompting disciplinary procedures.

Mr Trayhorn resigned from his job in November 2014, saying that he had been harassed because of his Christian faith and that it was impossible for him to return to work, given the way that he had been treated. Two days after his resignation, a disciplinary hearing was held in his absence, at which he was given a final written warning.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Trayhorn took his case to an Employment Tribunal in November 2015, claiming that he had been punished by the prison because of his Christian faith.

He was represented by Standing Counsel to the Christian Legal Centre, Paul Diamond.


'Alarming'

In March 2016, the Employment Tribunal ruled that Mr Trayhorn spoke of God's forgiveness in an "insensitive" way which "failed to have regard for the special nature of the congregation in the prison".

Mr Trayhorn described the Employment Tribunal's judgment as "alarming on a number of fronts".

"The Tribunal's reasoning was based on the effect that my message, which included the Bible verses, had on those who heard them. Yet those who attend chapel do so voluntarily to worship God and to learn what the Bible has to say," he said.

One of Mr Trayhorn's witnesses gave evidence to the Tribunal that hearing Mr Trayhorn speak at the chapel services helped him to find faith.

However, this was disregarded.


'Prisoners need to hear God's word'

Commenting before Thursday's hearing, Mr Trayhorn said:

"I am pleased and thankful that I have an opportunity to challenge the Employment Tribunal's ruling and I pray that the Judge who hears my case will understand the implications for many Christians, if the Tribunal's decision stands.

"Prisoners need to hear God's word just as much as anyone else. If people come to a Christian chapel service, we cannot hold back the gospel truth that God forgives those who repent.

"As I led the worship, I spoke about the wonder of God's love and the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ to those who recognise their sin and repent. I said that I am the worst sinner I know.

"But the prison decided that wasn't a politically correct message. The mere mention of homosexual behaviour in the Bible verses that I quoted provoked complaint. It is the Bible which is really on trial."

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

"It is our privilege to continue to stand with Barry during this next stage of his case as he challenges the Tribunal's decision. If the courts won't recognise the way that some Christians are being treated, just for living out their faith at work, and if gospel truth cannot be spoken in a Christian service which prisoners voluntarily chose to attend, where will we encounter such censorship next?

"The gospel is a message of hope and forgiveness and neither prisoners nor anyone else should be denied access to it."
 

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