Get another career, MP tells faith dilemma staff

Public sector workers who face a conflict between their job and their faith should get another career, an MP scrutinising the Equality Bill says.

Lynne Featherstone MP said the world is not big enough to allow people to abide by their religious beliefs and conscience in the public sector workplace.

  • Know your rights: Religious liberty in the workplace
  • She said: “On the execution of public duty, it is important that we make it clear here and now that carrying out public services cannot be a matter of conscience.”

    The Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green was writing on her blog discussing her participation in the 9th and 10th sittings of the Equality Bill Committee.

    She referred to amendments tabled by John Mason MP which aim to protect employees who are being asked to perform tasks which conflict with their religious beliefs.

    She said: “John Mason’s argument was that the world was a big enough place to allow people to abide by their religious beliefs and conscience and employers could work around that.

    “I totally disagree.”

    She added: “if there are elements of the job that you cannot do in all conscience – then it isn’t the job for you.”

    She referred to the case of Lillian Ladele, the Christian registrar who faces dismissal at Islington Council unless she agrees to perform same-sex civil partnership registrations.

    Over the weekend it emerged that a second Christian registrar at Islington, Theresa Davies, has also been punished because she has the same view as Miss Ladele.

    Islington Council has admitted that it has been able to provide a “first class” civil partnership service using its team of registrars without requiring Christian staff to be involved.

    Despite this, Islington is pressing the two Christian registrars to act against their religious conscience or face the consequences.

    Earlier this month a Sunday Telegraph poll showed that thousands of Christians are losing out on promotions and being hassled at work because of their beliefs.

    More than half of the Christians surveyed said they had suffered some form of persecution for being a Christian.

    Since the turn of the year a number of public sector staff have been punished by their bosses for expressing their faith in the workplace.

    NHS nurse, Caroline Petrie, was suspended because she offered to pray for a patient.

    Mum and part-time school receptionist, Jennie Cain, was disciplined because she emailed friends asking them to pray about an incident at school involving her daughter.

    A Christian foster carer was struck off because she allowed a Muslim child in her care to convert to Christianity.

    Teacher, Kwabena Peat, was suspended after he complained that a staff training day was used to marginalise those who disagreed with homosexual practice.

    David Booker, a charity worker in Southampton, was suspended under ‘diversity’ rules after answering a colleague’s questions about his Christian beliefs on sexual ethics.

    Duke Amachree, a council worker, was also suspended from his job for encouraging a terminally ill woman to turn to God. Bosses told him that even saying “God bless” at work was unacceptable.

    Mr Anand Rao, a Christian nurse with 40 years experience, was sacked because he said during a training course that going to church could ease the anxiety of a stressed patient.

    The Equality Bill is a huge piece of legislation which aims to consolidate years of equality laws into one Act of Parliament.

    Christian groups are concerned about proposals to narrow existing exemptions that allow them to act in keeping with their religious ethos.

    The Bill also proposes to place a positive duty on public bodies like schools and the police to actively promote gay and transsexual rights.

    Related Resources