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News – Relationship counsellor loses discrimination claim

February 2009

Relationship counsellor loses discrimination claim

 

A Christian relationship counsellor has lost his claim of religious discrimination against counselling service Relate. Gary McFarlane was first suspended then dismissed by his employer when he asked to be exempted from offering sex therapy to same sex couples, because of his religious beliefs.

     The Employment Tribunal rejected Mr McFarlane’s claim of religious discrimination. It recognised powerful arguments on both sides but held that the provision of ‘non-discriminatory’ services was important. It did, however, uphold Mr McFarlane’s claim of wrongful dismissal because of procedural errors.

     Mr McFarlane, who was supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), said: ‘Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights’. Andrea Minichiello Williams of the CLC said: ‘It is important to note that Mr McFarlane has never refused to counsel a same sex couple; he merely raised the potential conflict between his Christian faith and homosexual conduct.

     ‘It is deeply disturbing that the mere expression of religious belief with an inability to give unqualified support to sexual orientation issues means that a Christian can be dismissed with no attempt to provide suitable accommodation for his or her beliefs. The law preventing religious discrimination against Christians is in danger of becoming a dead letter’.

 

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