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Homeless Charity Suspends Christian for Answering Questions about His Faith to Colleague at Work

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Issued on behalf of the Christian Legal Centre

Press Release

For Immediate Release

12 April 2009

Homeless Charity Suspends Christian for Answering Questions about His Faith to Colleague at Work

AN employee at a  ‘homeless’ charity in Southampton has been suspended for answering questions about his faith to a colleague at work.

David Booker, aged 44, a Christian from Southampton, was employed by the English Churches Housing Group in 2006, whose Patron is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Last year the charity was taken over by the Society of St James, who adopted Mr Booker’s contract, terms of service and ECHG’s codes of conduct.

On 26 March, whilst working an evening shift, he had a 35 minute conversation with female colleague Fiona Vardy.  Ms Vardy asked him about his faith and beliefs.  During the conversation he was asked the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and homosexual civil partnerships, which Mr Booker explained.  The conversation was free-flowing and Mr Booker clearly explained that he had homosexual friends and that he was not homophobic.

The following day he was summoned by his employers and told that he was suspended for “events that happened last night”.  On March 30, the he was given a formal suspension  notice alleging that: “ On 26 March 09, whilst on shift with Fiona Vardy, you seriously breached ECHG’s (English Churches House Group) Code of conduct by promoting your religious views which contained discriminatory comments regarding a person’s sexual orientation.” Threatened with the sack for ‘gross misconduct’ under the charity’s Culture and Diversity Code of Conduct, Mr Booker has sought the advice of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC),  who in turn have instructed Paul Diamond, the leading human rights lawyer to represent him.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and director of CLC 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 Society of St James, and before them the English Churches Housing Group have advertised for and welcomed donations from churches throughout Hampshire,  who we are sure will be shocked at the attitude and action taken by a Christian and charitable organisation towards a Christian employee.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, as Patron of ECHG, whose employment policies were used in this case, has confirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage, same-sex relationships and homosexuality and that is in the public domain.  We would be interested to know whether his Patronage is actually contrary, therefore, to ECHG’s Culture and Diversity Code of Conduct?”.

"CLC is happy to confirm that ECHG does not own the property, nor does it manage the services at the hostel in Southampton Street. ECHG transferred the support services to the Society of St James in February 2008 and sold the building to Saxon Weald housing association in January 2009. "

ENDS.

For further information:

Andrea Minichiello Williams (CLC): 0207 4675427, 0771 2591164

David Booker (via Onn Sein Kon @ CLC): 07934488547

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