Social worker denied job over biblical views: ‘Dangerous precedent for Christians’

Felix Ngole
Felix Ngole | Christian Legal Centre

A 46-year-old devout Christian social worker in the U.K., Felix Ngole, has described an employment tribunal ruling as setting a “dangerous precedent for Christians” by upholding his employer’s decision not to reinstate him after being denied a position over his biblical views on homosexuality.

The tribunal, presided over by Employment Judge Jonathan Brain, acknowledged that Ngole had been directly discriminated against when Touchstone Leeds, an NHS recruiter, withdrew the initial job offer, said the group Christian Concern, whose legal arm Christian Legal Centre supported Ngole.

However, the tribunal rejected Ngole’s claims of indirect discrimination and harassment during the subsequent procedures, including a second interview designed to probe his beliefs further, the group added.

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Judge Brain reportedly said the decision to rescind the job offer was influenced by legitimate concerns over the potential impact of Ngole’s publicly known views on the mental health of patients who identify as LGBT. The tribunal concluded that maintaining the trust and safety of clients was a paramount concern that justified the actions taken by Touchstone.

This part of the ruling drew criticism for potentially setting a precedent that might limit employment opportunities for individuals who do not actively promote LGBT ideology, Christian Concern said.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, criticized the ruling for what she described as “contorted” reasoning. According to Williams, the decision undermines the free expression of traditional Christian beliefs and could lead to widespread employment discrimination against those holding similar views.

Ngole voiced his concerns about the implications of the ruling, stating it could prevent Christians from securing employment if they do not endorse and actively support LGBT ideology.

In 2022, Touchstone offered Ngole a job as a hospital discharge mental health support worker after a successful interview where he outperformed 15 other candidates. However, his job offer was later withdrawn after Touchstone management discovered Ngole’s involvement in a legal dispute over his religious statements on social media, specifically concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Previously, Ngole had been involved in a high-profile case against Sheffield University, which had expelled him from his social work course due to his public expression of biblical views. In a landmark decision in 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Ngole, stating that he would “never discriminate against anyone” despite his beliefs, and allowed him to resume his studies and qualify as a social worker.

During this second interview, discussions were held concerning how Ngole would promote homosexual rights. He was also informed about mandatory LGBT awareness training, with restrictions expected on expressing his views, contrary to other staff members’ freedom to promote LGBT-affirming views.

“The ruling ultimately sets a dangerous precedent as it gives employers the freedom to block Christians, and anyone who doesn’t promote LGBTQI+ ideology, from employment,” Ngole said. “If I was discriminated against when they withdrew the job offer then I don’t see how I was not also discriminated against when they refused to reinstate me after the ‘second interview.’”

He added, “I was told I was the best candidate for the job, then they suddenly found I was unemployable because they discovered that I am a Christian. No one has ever told me that I have not treated them well in my professional experience. I have never been accused of forcing my beliefs on anyone. I have supported vulnerable individuals from all backgrounds, including LGBT.”

Ngole is preparing to appeal the tribunal’s decision.

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