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Sunday working

February 2013

Sunday working

A Christian children’s worker has lost her appeal against her former employers, who changed their stance and forced her to work on a Sunday.
    Celestina Mba, former employee at London-based Brightwell Children’s Home, was told by an employment appeals tribunal that her employer was justified in not accommodating her Christian observance of Sunday.
    However, in the tribunal, Ms Mba had said that before she began working for Brightwell she agreed with her employers that she would not work on Sundays, in accordance with her Christian beliefs.
    The tribunal expressly found that Ms Mba genuinely believed that her religious position would be accommodated in full.
    However, the council changed the arrangement after she commenced her employment and said that the arrangement was temporary, forcing her to choose between her job and her Christian observance.
    
Inconsistency

Even though she offered to accept less pay or work nights or Saturday shifts, the council chose not to accept her offers.
    However, the tribunal held that Sunday was not a ‘core’ component of the Christian faith because some Christians would be prepared to work on a Sunday; and thus Christians as a whole do not need Sunday protected.
    A statement from the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which supported Ms Mba, said, ‘This is a very concerning judgment and is another example of the undermining of the Christian faith from the public square by the political and judicial elites.
    ‘The courts have acted to protect the Kara bracelet, Afro “Cornrow haircuts”, the wearing of the Hijab and a Muslim’s right to fast, but have refused to grant protection to the Cross, the Christian Sunday and Christian purity rings’.
    Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the CLC, said, ‘The court, in this case, created an unrealistic test that means that people such as Ms Mba who wish to respect Sunday as a day of rest and worship will be forced out of the workplace.
    ‘The court seems to be requiring a significant number of adherents of the Christian faith to observe a particular practice before the court is willing to accept and protect the practice.
    ‘As the Government presses ahead with the redefinition of marriage, perhaps the courts will inform us what percentage of Christians need to believe marriage is between a man and woman before they will protect us?’

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