‘Forced to resign’ after quoting Bible in chapel service

2 November 2015

A Christian prison worker felt compelled to resign after Bible verses he quoted during a chapel service provoked an aggressive response from prison authorities, an employment tribunal will hear this week.

Rev Barry Trayhorn, an ordained Pentecostal minister, started work as a gardener at HMP Littlehey in May 2011. He also helped on a voluntary basis with chapel services at the sex offenders’ prison, at the invitation of the chaplain.

Whilst leading worship at a chapel service in May 2014, Mr Trayhorn spoke about the wonder of God’s forgiveness for those who repent, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from memory. The verses mention a number of sins, including adultery, homosexual practice, greed and drunkenness.

Four days after the service, a complaint was made. Mr Trayhorn was immediately barred from helping with chapel services. He was later told that his comments during the service were “homophobic” and breached national prison policy. He was notified that there would be a disciplinary hearing.

In August, Mr Trayhorn was signed off work with stress-related illness.

Then, on 4 November 2014, Mr Trayhorn resigned from his job as a gardener, 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 he had been treated.

Two days later, a disciplinary hearing was held in his absence. Mr Trayhorn was given a final written warning.

Mr Trayhorn is convinced that his involvement in chapel services provoked a hostile response from prison officials, leading to a series of issues being raised with him.

A hearing in Mr Trayhorn’s case begins today at Bedford Employment Tribunal and is expected to last until 10 November.

Mr Trayhorn is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre and will be represented by Standing Counsel Paul Diamond.<

‘Daring to say what the Bible says’

Mr Trayhorn explains:

“I simply said what the Bible says. 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 that wasn’t politically correct. The mere mention of homosexual behaviour in the Bible verses that I quoted provoked complaint. I was barred from taking part in chapel services and trouble came my way.

“I was put under enormous pressure for daring to say what the Bible says.”

‘Gospel witness in prisons’

Commenting on Mr Trayhorn’s case, Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

“It is astonishing that Barry was forced out of a sex offenders’ prison for repeating what the Bible says about sexual behaviour – during a chapel service – as he spoke about repentance and forgiveness.

“This is an important case. Freedom to maintain a clear gospel witness in prisons needs to be protected.  

“No-one should be denied an opportunity to hear what God has to say about the way to restoration, least of all those in prison for sexual offences.

“We’re delighted that Barry came to us and grateful to all those who enable us to support him and other Christians like him.”

Find out more about Barry Trayhorn
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