Election matters: the case of Maureen Martin

22 July 2022

Andrea Williams comments on the case of Maureen Martin, a mayoral candidate who was fired for her Christian political manifesto.

As Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak jostle to become leader of the Conservative Party (and thus to become Prime Minister), the importance of encouraging informed participation in the democratic process would seem obvious. By contrast, L&Q, the prominent housing charity, claims a right of veto over the manifesto of any of its staff standing for office. The veto will be exercised if it thinks LGBT+ staff or customers might be offended by the candidates’ views. That is what emerges from the story of Maureen Martin.

Maureen Martin was a middle manager working for L&Q in South London. As President of the Christian People’s Alliance, she decided to stand in this year’s election to become Mayor of Lewisham. Lewisham Council put together a book containing a summary manifesto for each candidate and sent it to every resident in the Borough. Maureen Martin’s manifesto dealt with many important local issues such as fly tipping but went on to say:

“Marriage: I pledge to cut through political correctness and simply state the truth that natural marriage between a man and a woman is the fundamental building block for a successful society and the safest environment for raising children.”

Just three service users out of the many thousands of local residents who had received the booklet complained to L&Q and as a result, Maureen Martin was disciplined and dismissed.

For present purposes, the most important reason for dismissal was manifesting her Christian faith on the topic of marriage outside of the workplace. The seminal legal case on freedom of speech is Handyside v UK [1980] that:

“freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society … it is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.”

This principle applies particularly to political speech, which can only be restricted in very narrow circumstances.

Maureen Martin has issued proceedings in the Employment Tribunal, supported by the Christian Legal Centre. We believe this is the first time that a UK political candidate has been sacked by their employer for expressing their Christian beliefs as part of an election campaign.

The case is similar to another we supported: Keith Waters, a pastor and part-time caretaker who successfully challenged how he was treated for a social media post on Pride. The judgment made clear that employers cannot curtail free speech outside the workplace without clear justification. To avoid liability, L&Q faces an uphill struggle to contend that Christianity and its manifestation cause offence that justifies the silencing of political candidates. This would be a remarkable and retrograde step for the law to take.

If you agree that voicing Christian beliefs should not get you fired, support Maureen by signing the petition.

Find out more about Maureen Martin
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