Prison Worker Banned From Chapel Services for Citing Bible on Homosexuality Loses Appeal

(Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu)Participants hold a giant rainbow flag during an LGBT pride parade in Hong Kong, China, November 8, 2014. Participants from the LGBT communities took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate for their rights.

A Christian prison worker who was banned from attending prison chapel services because he cited a Bible verse that calls out the sin of homosexuality lost his appeal in court.

Pentecostal minister Barry Trayhorn, who worked at a prison for male sex offenders near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, England, and also volunteered in the prison's chapel since 2011, was barred from attending chapel services after he quoted the words of 1 Corinthians 6:9 when he spoke during a chapel service in May 2014.

According to Christian Legal Centre, the law group that represents Trayhorn in the tribunal, Trayhorn referenced that verse while talking about how God provides forgiveness for those who repent.

(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)Barry Trayhorn

The verse states: "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."

However, Trayhorn's reference of that verse, especially the part about homosexuality, didn't sit well with some in the room. A complaint was filed four days later about Trayhorn's inclusion of homosexuals and argued that he should not have mentioned the part of the verse.

According to the law group, Trayhorn was immediately barred from helping with chapel services and was told that his comments were "homophobic" and violated prison policy. He was also told that there would be a disciplinary hearing.

Trayhorn has asserted that he felt forced to resign from his position as the prison's gardner because of the response to his remarks during the chapel service.

"Mr. Trayhorn is convinced that his involvement in chapel services provoked a hostile response from prison officials, leading to a series of issues being raised with him," Christian Legal Centre reported.

Trayhorn has maintained that he is "being punished simply for daring to say what the Bible says."

In March 2016, Trayhorn's case was brought before an employment tribunal, which ruled that Trayhorn's religious freedom rights were not violated "because of the way his message was received."

Christian Legal Centre explained that the tribunal deemed Trayhorn's reference of the Bible to be "insensitive" and stated that he "failed to have regard for the special nature of the congregation in the prison."

After appealing the tribunal's ruling last November, Trayhorn's appeal received a decision last Wednesday from the High Court of England and Wales.

Justice Elizabeth Slade upheld the tribunal's ruling, stating that quoting such a verse from the Bible could "legitimise... mistreatment," a Christian Legal Centre press release explains.

"Prisoners need to hear God's word just as much as anyone else. If people come to a Christian chapel service, we cannot hold back the gospel truth that God forgives those who repent," Trayhorn said in a statement after the ruling. "In no way did my speaking from 1 Corinthians 6 intend to bully or mistreat anyone. I shared the Gospel with them because I am motivated by the love of Christ to tell them that they can find forgiveness. I told the prisoners I am the worst sinner I know."

Trayhorn added that he feels this ruling will "restrict other people like me from sharing Christ in prisons."

"Christianity is under attack in this nation. I cannot help but wonder if other faiths would be given the same treatment," he said.

Christian Legal Centre Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement that the judgment sets a "dangerous precedent" for those who preach the Gospel.

"To say that quoting a verse from the Bible can be offensive, could have serious implications on the freedom of prison ministers to share the good news of the gospel," she said. "It should not be for the state to decide which parts of the Bible can and cannot be quoted during preaching, nor to dictate that verses that some may find unpalatable should be interpreted to fit with current social norms."

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