‘No evidence’ Christian beliefs lead to increased LGBT suicide, Tribunal hears

8 April 2024

For the first time in a UK court, Leeds Employment Tribunal heard evidence analysing the validity of ‘Minority Stress Theory’ applied to the case of Christian social worker, Felix Ngole.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Ngole, 46, brought a case against Touchstone Support Leeds, following the Stonewall-backed NHS provider withdrawing a job offer after it discovered that Mr Ngole had orthodox Christian beliefs on human sexuality.

Mr Ngole was the best candidate for the role of Mental Health Support worker at Wakefield Hospital, until Touchstone bosses discovered he had won a crucial case for free speech and Christian freedoms at the Court of Appeal in 2019.

The Stonewall-backed NHS provider, which serves 10,000 people across Yorkshire, tried to use ‘Minority Stress Theory’ to justify withdrawing Mr Ngole’s job offer.

The theory suggests that minority groups, such as the LGBT community, experience stress stemming from experiences of stigma and discrimination.

Giving evidence to support Touchstone’s position, Dr H. Eli Joubert suggested that if NHS LGBT service users discovered Mr Ngole’s beliefs online, it could lead to ‘death.’

Touchstone tried to argue that the mere knowledge that Mr Ngole holds conservative Christian beliefs will traumatise people, even if he never said anything during employment.

Last week, senior staff at Touchstone, who had interrogated Mr Ngole once they discovered his beliefs, even went as far to suggest that if a member of staff, like Mr Ngole, shared a belief that there are only two genders, or expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, it could also lead to a service user’s death.

They added that the famous Bible verse, John 3:16, would be ‘triggering’ to an LGBT service user.

The hearing revealed that Touchstone is an LGBT enclave despite presenting itself as ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’. For example, 31% of its staff are LGBT, despite the latest ONS figures (2021), revealing that just 3.1% of the UK population is LGB.

The case is believed to be the first time it has been argued that a person merely holding and expressing, on social media, traditional Christian views on marriage and sexuality ought to be a reason to discriminate in employment against them, due to the potential harm to LGBT people.

If the court were to side with Touchstone’s position, it would have a major impact on freedom of speech, and not just for Christians. For example, it could also mean an employer would be free to do the same in relation to a someone expressing gender critical views, claiming a risk of trans people committing suicide.

‘No evidence’ of harm says expert

However, the tribunal heard expert evidence which discredits ‘Minority Stress Theory’ from Rev. Dr Paul Sullins, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at The Catholic University of America.

Citing numerous studies, including one as recent as 2022 from the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, Dr Sullins told the tribunal that: “Social isolation is the number one factor leading to suicide” in the general UK population.

He said: “Minority Stress Theory models don’t tell us why sexual minorities predict suicide”, and added that there are: “No higher incidents of death by suicide in the LGBT population than the rest of the population. LGBT persons are more likely to talk about attempted suicide, but are not more likely to commit suicide.”

He said that there are numerous studies on the risk of suicide as a result of non-affirming religions, and that they record “no higher risks of suicide.”

Cross-examined on Mr Ngole describing homosexual practice as a sin in the past, Dr Sullins said that Touchstone staff had shown: ‘A basic misunderstanding of what sin means in the Christian tradition. Christians believe that all humans are in a state of sin. Sin becomes an expression of the different occasions and ways that we are yet to discover God’s love in our lives.’

He added that expressing that something is a ‘sin’ or that someone is doing something ‘sinful’ is a way that Christians ‘… express that these are people who need specialise care and support from God.’

Dr Sullins said: ‘The word ‘sin’ is a Christian theological word’, and expressed surprise that Touchstone staff were not familiar with the Christian term ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’.

He added that: ‘Describing John 3:16 as ‘triggering’ shows a basic misunderstanding of how Christians understand God’s love for us.’

The hearing will conclude with closing submissions expected on the afternoon of Monday 8 April 2024. A reserved judgment is expected.

Find out more about Felix Ngole
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