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Relate Counsellor takes Relate to Tribunal following Dismissal for Christian View on Sexual Ethics

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Issued by Christian Legal Centre (CLC)

Press Release

For Immediate Release

30th November 2008

Relate Counsellor takes Relate to Tribunal following Dismissal for Christian View on Sexual Ethics

Gary McFarlane, a Christian counsellor, Solicitor and former church elder is taking the charity Relate Avon, to the Employment Tribunal on Monday (1DEC) after he was dismissed for a perceived failure to comply with Relate’s Equal Opportunities Policy (EOP) regarding the provision of sex therapy to same sex couples, having counselled same sex couples.

Mr McFarlane, a father of two, had been training and working with Relate since May 2003 and had enjoyed good relationships with clients and colleagues. Within his role as a couple’s counsellor, Mr McFarlane counselled several heterosexual couples and same sex couples and was able to help them come to a better place in their damaged relationships.

In September 2006, Mr McFarlane commenced a post graduate diploma in psychosexual therapy. This type of counselling dealt with the more intimate and private details of a couple’s sexual relationship and explored ways to develop and improve a couple’s sex life. 

Although Mr McFarlane had never had to provide sex therapy to a same sex couple, he thought that if the situation did arise, then he would be able to discuss his Christian views with his supervisors so that his position could be discussed and if necessary accommodated. Any such discussions were, however, pre-empted by unexpected meetings between Mr McFarlane and his manager in October 2007 when he was asked to state his views regarding same sex couples. Despite explaining that he would counsel couples in compliance with Relate’s Equal Opportunities Policy, and that he would raise any issues with his supervisors and manager, as good practice required, Mr McFarlane was suspended in early January 2008. Mr McFarlane was given no other choice than to subject his religious faith to the EOP.

Mr McFarlane’s suspension was lifted a few weeks later, but after returning to work he realised that views he had expressed in the confidence and privacy of the proper supervision forum and perhaps also in meetings with his manager, had been leaked and a petition demanding his dismissal was being circulated. Mr McFarlane had also been labelled a ‘homophobe’ by colleagues and all of his clients had been referred to different counsellors meaning that he could not complete his sex therapy training for the benefit of the Bristol Community.

In February 2008 Mr McFarlane was summoned to a disciplinary hearing and he was dismissed on 18 March 2008. Mr. McFarlane was given no other choice than to subject his religious faith to the EOP. He says “I love the community of Bristol. I live in a great city, with a history. There is no room for oppression of any people and a return to the past. The issues are way bigger than one individual. Society will be the poorer if we do not balance rights fairly and respectfully.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of Christian Concern for our Nation said: “Mr McFarlane had an unblemished record of service for Relate and was trying to work out a way in which his Christian views could be accommodated. It is astonishing to think that in 21st Century Britain we are unable to ensure that people like Mr McFarlane are able to stay within the system. Unless, we are able to achieve this in law then there will never be true equality and respect for all.”

Mr McFarlane claims discrimination on the grounds of religion, unfair dismissal and harassment. The Christian Legal Centre, which has supported Mr McFarlane throughout the process, has instructed leading Human Right’s barrister Paul Diamond to represent him in the case, set down for a two-day hearing.


For more information: Libby Blaxall 07912 562 996, Gary McFarlane 07866097247


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