A Christian charity worker in Southampton has been suspended under ‘diversity’ rules after answering a colleague’s questions about his beliefs on sexual ethics.
The case, involving a charity for the homeless which has the Archbishop of Canterbury as a patron, follows several recent incidents where Christians have faced problems over their beliefs.
David Booker has worked as a hostel support worker for the English Churches Housing Group, recently taken over by the Society of St James, for four years.
However, he was told last month that he had broken the charity’s Culture and Diversity Code of Conduct and suspended.
The allegations followed a discussion with colleague Fiona Vardy during which Mr Booker answered questions about Christian teaching on same-sex relationships.
The free-flowing conversation lasted 35 minutes, and Mr Booker answered his co-worker’s questions while making clear that he had homosexual friends and was not homophobic.
However, the following day he was told he was being suspended over “events that happened last night”.
A few days later, he was formally suspended. A formal notice told him: “On 26 March 09, whilst on shift with Fiona Vardy, you seriously breached ECHG’s Code of Conduct by promoting your religious views which contained discriminatory comments regarding a person’s sexual orientation.”
The letter added that the action was taken to “safeguard both residents and staff” at the Southampton Street hostel.
Mr Booker said: “I was working nights with a colleague of mine and somehow we got on to the subject of Christianity – and then our discussion moved on to homosexuality in the church. I can’t remember if I was the instigator – or she was.
“The conversation moved on to my views on homosexuality. I am not a bigot. I am not homophobic. I have gay friends.
“But I did say that I didn’t agree with same-sex marriages, I didn’t believe pastors or vicars should marry same-sex partners and I didn’t agree with practising homosexuals being a pastor or a vicar.
“At one point, as we were talking, I asked her if I was offending her or boring her and she replied: ‘No, Dave, carry on.’ After our discussion, she was friendly towards me. She made me cups of tea. There was no problem at all.”
Mr Booker now faces the sack for gross misconduct under the charity’s Culture and Diversity Code of Conduct.
He is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC).
CLC Director, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said: “Mr Booker has been suspended since 27 March for two weeks pending investigation. No date has been set for the investigation and disciplinary hearing.
“This case shows that in today’s politically correct, increasingly secularized society, even consenting reasonable discussion on religion between two employees is being twisted by employers to discriminate and silence the Christian voice and freedom of expression.
“To date, the English Churches Housing Group is funded largely by churches throughout Hampshire, who we are sure will be shocked at the attitude and action taken by a Christian organisation towards a Christian employee.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury, as Patron, has confirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage, same-sex relationships and homosexuality and that is in the public domain. We are interested to know whether his Patronage is now under threat under the charity’s Culture and Diversity Code of Conduct?”
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