A Christian relationship counsellor says he was sacked because his beliefs prevented him from giving sex therapy to homosexual couples.
Gary McFarlane, a 47-year-old father from Bristol, claims that the counselling service he had worked for since 2003 dismissed him after he said that as a Christian he could not do anything that would encourage homosexual sex.
As a relationship counsellor, Mr McFarlane once helped a lesbian couple because he felt this did not involve “telling anyone what to do or endorsing what they do”.
However, after training as a psychosexual therapist, he felt that he could not treat homosexual couples in this new capacity because it would involve encouraging gay sex.
He wanted the counselling service, Relate Avon, to allow him to avoid these cases.
However, after being accused of ‘homophobia’, he was suspended by his manager last December and later dismissed.
Mr McFarlane, who is also a solicitor, is now taking the case to an employment tribunal. He says he was unfairly dismissed on the grounds of religious discrimination.
“There was a group who didn’t want me there and they got their teeth in,” he said. “I was prepared to explore my reservations but they wanted unconditional assurances that they would never become an issue for me.
“Why did they have to slam the door like that? This could force other Christians out of counselling. Some have already reacted with consternation, saying if it could happen to someone of my experience and skills, it could happen to them.”
Mr McFarlane attends both Pentecostal and Church of England services in Bristol, and is a part time tutor on relationships at Trinity Theological College.
He says he is “sad and disappointed” at the “bigotry” he encountered at Relate.
“If I was a Muslim this would not happen,” he said. “They would find a way to make the system work.
“But Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights.
“Relate needs to be forced to work through stuff like this.”
The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mr McFarlane.