Social worker denied ‘dream job’ after Christian beliefs discovered

2 April 2024

This week, a Leeds employment tribunal will hear the case of a Christian social worker who was given a choice by a Stonewall backed NHS provider to ‘embrace and promote LGBTQ+ rights’ or have a job offer withdrawn.

In May 2022, Mr Felix Ngole, 46, had been offered his ‘dream job’ as a Mental Health Support via Touchstone Support Leeds, who recruit on behalf of the NHS, until it was discovered he had once won a landmark legal case over his right to freedom of speech.

In 2015, Mr Ngole was thrown off his social worker training course at Sheffield University following a debate on Facebook which quoted passages from the Bible about same-sex marriage.

But in a major victory for Christian freedoms, the Court of Appeal ruled in 2019 that Mr Ngole would ‘never discriminate against anyone’ because of his Christian beliefs and therefore he was he was allowed to return to his training and subsequently qualified as a social worker.

Nonetheless, Mr Ngole despite being offered a job with Touchstone, he was invited back for a ‘second interview’ in which he was interrogated about his beliefs. He was told by Touchstone bosses that unless he could demonstrate how he would ‘embrace and promote homosexual rights’, the job offer would be withdrawn.

They said that his beliefs did not ‘align’ with Touchstone’s ethos as an ‘inclusive employer’ and that he posed a risk to the organisations’ reputation.

He was also told in the second interview that he would be expected to attend LGB and Transgender awareness training but would not be free to share his views despite others being free to share their LGBT affirming views.

Despite Mr Ngole seeking to assure Touchstone that he had never been accused of forcing his beliefs on anyone and that he had never been accused of discriminating against anybody, the job offer was eventually withdrawn.

Prior to this, in May 2022, Mr Ngole was the best performing candidate in interview having gained the highest marks of any candidate on an equality and diversity assessment.

There was also nothing in the job description or job advert, which Mr Ngole was originally emailed by, which presented such a prerequisite to work for the organisation that supports 10,000 people across Yorkshire each year.

‘Minority Stress Theory’

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Ngole is now bringing claims of direct discrimination, harassment, and breaches of the Equality Act 2010 against Touchstone.

The case begins on 2 April at Leeds Employment Tribunal, where Mr Ngole will seek compensation and a recommendation that Touchstone amends its recruitment procedures to align with its stated objective of being an ‘inclusive employer’ so as not to exclude Christians from its workforce.

For the first time a UK court will analyse ‘Minority Stress Theory’, a theory which suggests that minority groups experience stress stemming from experiences of stigma and discrimination.

In response to Mr Ngole’s legal claims, Touchstone lawyers have tried to use the theory to justify discriminating against him. They suggested that if one of their service users discovered Mr Ngole’s Christian beliefs on human sexuality, it would cause them distress, and therefore he could not be employed.

If the courts accept this reasoning, it will send an alarming green light to other employers that they can discriminate against Bible-believing Christians in any situation where they might interact with people who identify as LGBTQ+.

In response, the tribunal will hear expert evidence in support of Mr Ngole that no evidence exists to support claims that a polite expression of a contrary opinion can cause psychological harm.

‘I had to pledge allegiance to LGBT or be unemployable’

Ahead of the hearing, Mr Ngole had said: “I was told I was the best candidate for the job, then they suddenly I found I was unemployable because they discovered that I am a Christian.

“No one has ever told me that I have not treated them well in my professional experience. I have never been accused of forcing my beliefs on anyone. I have supported vulnerable individuals from all backgrounds, including LGBT.

“I was delighted to be invited to the interview so that I could showcase my skills. I saw it as a step closer to my dream job. It was a brilliant interview; I was greeted warmly, and they were really kind to me.

“I was offered the job and they were already talking to me about my first day and who my line manager would be. When I received the email telling me that the job had been withdrawn it was a shock. I was very confused and distraught, and I wanted to know why.

“The reasons they gave for withdrawing the job offer were an attack on me and my faith.

“They made it seem that 100% of the people I would be helping would be LGBT, and that I had to pledge allegiance to the LGBT flag and forget about my Christian beliefs.

“It is untenable for employers to be allowed to discriminate against Christian beliefs in this way and to force individuals to promote an ideology that goes against their conscience in the workplace.

“There was no mutual respect, and no tolerance and inclusion of me and my beliefs whatsoever.  

“If we get to the point where if you don’t celebrate and support LGBT you can’t have a job, then every Christian out there doesn’t have a future. You can study as much as you like, but you will not have a chance.

“The UK is no longer the country I heard about all those years ago when fleeing Cameroon. The UK then was a bastion of free speech and expression.

“I have no choice but to pursue justice again because if this is happening to me it will be happening to Christians and individuals from all beliefs and backgrounds across the country.

“I was once an asylum seeker; I had no job, no home, but those in my community treated me with great kindness. I have to show that kindness, not just because I’m a Christian, but also because that is what I received.

“I cannot deny my faith to get a job. One day I will leave this world and I won’t leave with anything other than my faith. I will be happy to be a cleaner, if need be, as long as I keep my faith and am right before God.”

Viewpoint discrimination

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Telling an employee that they must ‘embrace and promote’ the LGBT lifestyle as a condition of employment sets a dark and troubling precedent. If left unchallenged it would see Christians who manifest their beliefs barred from working in the NHS and other institutions.

“Felix loves Jesus and the bible’s teaching, and you could not ask for a more compassionate mental health worker to support the most vulnerable in our communities.

“The NHS and its providers need more social workers like Felix Ngole, not fewer.

“What we see here is the confident totalitarianism of an organisation that has been captured by Stonewall and will do anything to keep their Stonewall ranking as high as possible.

“Viewpoint discrimination is escalating in the UK at an alarming rate. We have seen in the recent cases of high street banks denying Christians and free speech advocates the right to a bank account how far organisations captured by Stonewall are prepared to go. Anyone who does not comply and celebrate LGBT ideology must become a ‘non-person.’  

“The Court of Appeal judgment in Felix’s case against the University of Sheffield was a major development of the law and must be upheld and respected in current and future Christian freedom cases.”

Find out more about Felix Ngole
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