UK Charity's Christian Hiring Policy Ruled Discriminatory

A British-based Christian charity organization dedicated to aiding those with learning disabilities lost the right to control its own hiring practices after an Employee Tribunal ruled that it was "discriminatory."

In a weekend ruling by the Tribunal of Abergele, North West Wales, the tribunal said that Prospects, a well-known charitable organization, could not require new or existing employees to sign and agree to a "religious ethos" or statement of faith in salvation through Jesus Christ.

Although the statement of faith did not require any standard of behavior in its employees other than to "work within both the Christian ethos and the policies of Prospects," the tribunal ruled the charity's statement of faith illegal because of its use of public funding.

The suit against the charity organization was brought after two former employees, Mark Sheridan and Louise Hender, protested the group's alleged practice of preferential hiring and promotions towards Christian employees.

In a statement, The British Humanist Association (BHA), which helped finance the lawsuit, praised the ruling as a "landmark" decision.

"A clear message has been sent out by this decision: that blanket discrimination in employment policies and practices on grounds of religion or belief is simply unacceptable, and that an instruction to discriminate against someone on the basis of that person's religion or belief will be unlawful," said BHA Chief Executive Hanne Stinson.

Prospects, however, said that it would try to use all possible means to "consider the appropriateness of the grounds for a possible appeal."

The recent ruling against Prospects comes on the heels of a case involving Christian Horizons, a Canada-based ministry dedicated to helping disabled children, which was fined $23,000 because of its practice of requiring employees to sign a statement of faith prohibiting homosexual behavior. The hiring policy was ruled discriminatory in April.