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Pastor wins discrimination tribunal after being targeted at work for homosexuality beliefs

Pastor wins discrimination tribunal after being targeted at work for homosexuality beliefs

A union flag is seen near the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain April 18, 2017. | REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Former disco music writer-turned-Christian pastor in England, who says he was shunned at work after making what a coworker believes was a homophobic comment, has won a discrimination claim in an employment tribunal. 

London Central Tribunal Centre Judge Andrew James ruled in favor of 62-year-old Rev. George Hargreaves and found that the pastor had been unfairly targeted by a former colleague for stating his religious beliefs on homosexuality, according to British media reports. 

George Hargreaves | Screenshot: YouTube/OxfordUnion

Hargreaves currently works as a concierge for a homeless charity in South Kensington called Evolve Housing + Support. He wrote the hit 1980s song “So Macho” before being ordained in 1990 as a Pentecostal pastor. He also found the right-wing political party the Christian Party in 2004. 

According to The Daily Mail, Hargreaves filed a complaint after a former colleague, Elizabeth Akano, who is in her 20s, started ignoring him around January 2019 and even told him that she no longer respected him because of his views on homosexuality. 

The tribunal was told Akano and Hargreaves had a discussion at work one day in which “Akano made a comment to the effect that ‘people are born gay.’” Hargreaves replied something to the effect that “pedophiles make the same argument, that they are born that way.”

He added that “even if people are born with a condition, that does not put it beyond God's ability to change or heal it.”

He claimed that the coworker created a “humiliating” environment for him as she allegedly purposefully ignored him. 

In response, Akano also filed a complaint with the employer, accusing the pastor of homophobia. Neither of the complaints was upheld by the employer. However, Hargreaves appealed his complaint to the employment tribunal. 

Siding with Hargreaves, Judge James contended that the pastor suffered harassment and discrimination as a result of his religious beliefs because not only was he ignored by his coworker but also questioned by his area manager.  

“As to whether her conduct was related to religious belief, we find that it was. It arose out of Ms. Akano's conversation with the claimant in the middle of January 2019,” the ruling reads, according to The Telegraph. “She was clearly upset by the claimant's comment which appeared to make a link between pedophiles and the gay community.”

“The claimant is correct to say that it is not illegal to use those words together, in the sense that it is not a criminal offense,” the ruling continues. “Many people however, whatever their sexual orientation, who do not share the claimant's deeply held and genuine religious beliefs, would find the use of those words in that context to be offensive.”

According to the newspaper, the tribunal also found that Akano racially discriminated against Hargreaves, even though they are both black, by stating: “You are one of those black men who like white women.”

According to The Telegraph, compensation for Hargreaves will be decided at a later remedy hearing.

“We are still considering the judgement but were pleased to see that the Tribunal found in our favor in relation to a large proportion of the specific allegations, but recognize that there were findings against us on a small number of discrete points, mostly relating to an ex-employee,” a spokesperson for Evolve Housing + Support said in a statement to The Telegraph. “We will be considering internally what lessons can be learned.”

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