UK Christian Woman Denied Rights Given to a Muslim Over Work Days?

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By Eryn Sun, Christian Post Reporter
February 21, 2012|9:48 pm

A Christian care worker from the U.K. claims that she was discriminated against when she was not allowed accommodations from her employers for her beliefs while her Muslim co-worker was treated differently.

Celestina Mba is suing the London Borough of Merton after being forced to resign from her position at the Brightwell Children's Home in 2010 over her desire not to work on Sundays, the day of Sabbath.

She states that her requests not to work on a Sunday were initially respected by the council, which reportedly indicated they could "work around" that fact, when she applied for the job.

Seven months into her job at the respite home, however, her bosses changed their position and asked her to cover shifts on Sundays, forcing her to choose between her job and her faith.

Mba, a Christian since a young girl, has never worked on a Sunday and worships every Sabbath at her Baptist church. She is also part of the ministry team visiting hospitals and providing pastoral care for young women, according to The Daily Mail UK.

The 57-year-old employee tried to reach a compromise with her employers, saying that she was willing to work "at any unsocial time of shift (i.e. night time or Saturday shifts) in order to preserve [her] Sundays."

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She claimed that was even willing to take a reduction in pay as well and tried to arrange shift swaps with her colleagues, which the management purportedly tried to obstruct.

But she believed that ultimately her bosses did not want to compromise with her and saw the issue as "a question of management power with disrespect to the Christian faith."

Her beliefs and unwillingness to work on a Sunday eventually led to a disciplinary hearing in January 2010 and she resigned four months later.

The mother of three has not been able to find a job since and brought a lawsuit before the Merton council for constructive dismissal on the basis of religious discrimination.

While her own faith could not be accommodated for, Mba stated that managers were "happy" and willing to allow her Muslim colleague to attend mosque every Friday.

But her former manager, John Deegan, testified that he did not know of any Muslim employee being given special treatment and also denied Mba even mentioning that it was difficult for her to work on Sundays because of her religion.

Her case appeared before an employment tribunal on Monday. The Christian Legal Center is representing her.

"This is another case where we see intolerance towards the Christian faith and a lack of willingness to make accommodation for it," Andrea Williams, director of the CLC, said.

"Surely it is possible to devise a rota system that respects and accommodates the Christian belief of employees especially where such a rota had worked successfully in the past."

Richard Thompson, president and chief council of the Thomas More Law Society, believes that under American law, though he wasn't sure about the laws in the U.K., the courts would hopefully find that Mba was being discriminated against on the basis of religious belief, especially since her Muslim co-worker was given rights that she was not.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would create an undue hardship upon the employer.

"We have a Constitution that protects the free exercise of religion," he stressed, "but I'm not familiar with the laws of Great Britain."

When asked why he believed there was discrimination between Christians and Muslims, he responded, "In the United States and probably in Great Britain too ... they have bent over backwards to accommodate Muslims on the basis of multiculturalism."

"In the United States, let's say you are forbidden from establishing any religion especially in public schools where if you got involved with teaching a student about the religious tenets of Christianity that would be a violation of the so-called Establishment Clause. However, if you did the same thing on the Islamic faith they would say that that's okay because they are merely teaching students about multiculturalism and diversity."

Thompson continued, "So on the one hand they treat Christians differently because Christians are the majority faith in the United States, while they're bending over backwards to give Muslims the leeway that Christians would never have on the grounds that Muslims are a minority and they have not yet assimilated."

A double standard for people of different faiths was apparent both here in America and abroad as well.

Currently in the U.K., religious freedoms are said to be "under threat" due to increasing influence of equality laws and anti-discrimination policies.

Many cases have been brought before the courts as a result of the Equality Act 2010, which bans discrimination based on age, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, pregnancy and disability in the workplace or in wider society.

"There has been a significant curtailing of religious freedom in this nation, due to the 'equalities' culture and the imposition of political correctness on the public," the Christian Legal Center director previously said, according to The Telegraph.

"We were a nation admired the world over. Now people look at us in astonishment unable to believe that we have let such heritage slip so quickly and dramatically."

 

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