Articles

NHS denies freedom of religion

By January 25, 2022No Comments

Christian electrician, 66, who quit NHS job after being forced to take equality and diversity training for sharing his traditional views on ‘gay’ marriage and Muslims is granted right to sue former employers for religious discrimination

Brian Walker worked at Southmead Hospital when he made the comments

He was ordered to undertake a course and resigned after his appeal was rejected

He claimed he was treated unfairly for expressing ‘traditional biblical’ views

He tried to sue the NHS for discrimination claiming his views are religious belief

The NHS disagreed, saying his views ‘are not worthy…in a democratic society’

But Judge Derek Reed ordered a full hearing of the case should now go ahead

By STEPHEN WYNN-DAVIES FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 16:39, 25 January 2022 | UPDATED: 17:11, 25 January 2022

A Christian electrician has been granted the right to sue the NHS for discrimination by arguing that his opposition to ‘gay’ marriage amounts to a religious belief.

Brian Walker, who worked at Southmead Hospital in Bristol before resigning in 2020, claims he was treated unfairly by the health service for expressing ‘traditional biblical’ views to colleagues.

The North Bristol NHS Trust ordered Mr Walker to undertake equality and diversity training and gave him a final written warning after a colleague said he had made comments about same sex relationships, mixed race relationships and Muslims.

He resigned from his role after he was told his appeal against that decision had been rejected.

His belief that his ‘conservative Christian social values’ and ‘Christian sexual ethics based on the Bible’ are equivalent to protected philosophies will now be tested at an employment tribunal after a judge ruled his case can be heard.

The NHS argued Mr Walker’s claim should be struck out on the grounds his beliefs were ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’, were ‘incompatible with human dignity’ and ‘conflicted with the fundamental rights of others’.

But at a preliminary hearing, Judge Derek Reed dismissed the NHS’s submission and ordered a full hearing of the case should now go ahead in the autumn.

The tribunal was told that Mr Walker had been employed at Southmead Hospital in Bristol for two years when he had an argument with a female healthcare assistant who complained about him in May 2018.

She claimed he had been ‘aggressive’ and had made comments about same sex relationships, mixed race relationships and Muslims.

She said he had stated that he believed ‘same-sex marriage was contrary to biblical teaching’.

In June, Mr Walker, 66, was spoken to about these matters, before he lodged a grievance with the Trust on 1 August, 2018.

He claimed the comments made by him were not intended to be racist or offensive but he was ‘exercising his freedom of speech’ by sharing his ‘traditional biblical values, particularly regarding marriage’.

Following the grievance being investigated, Mr Walker was suspended pending a full disciplinary investigation.

By August 2019, the investigation against Mr Walker was concluded and he was ordered to undertake equality and diversity training as well as given a final written warning.

Mr Walker was told the allegations against him included him demonstrating behaviour ‘that was not in line with the Trust values’ and that he had breached the Trust’s Equality and Diversity policies.

He resigned in July 2020 after his appeal was rejected.

The tribunal heard Mr Walker will argue his beliefs in ‘conservative Christian social values’ and ‘Christian sexual ethics based on the Bible’ amount to protected philosophies, as well as his opposition to ‘the growing influence of Islam in Britain and other countries’.

Among his other beliefs are his opposition to same sex unions and homosexual acts, as he believes ‘marriage is a divinely instituted union between one man and one woman’.

Mr Walker also claims ‘the attention and priority given in many sections of modern society to inclusivity and positive action in favour of non-Christian faiths, minority sexual orientations, and transgenderism, is excessive and unhealthy’.

Employment Judge Reed ruled he could not decide whether his claim had ‘little or no reasonable prospect of success’ at this stage and refused to strike out his claim.

Mr Walker claims he was treated like a ‘terrorist’ by NHS bosses and was forced out of the job despite telling bosses he was under severe pressure at the time supporting his disabled children through complex issues.

He said the experience nearly ‘destroyed’ his family.

Responding to the judgment, Mr Walker said: ‘I am relieved and delighted to hear the judge’s ruling and that the case can now proceed to a full hearing.

‘Christian beliefs, and especially any expressing of them, are being suppressed in the NHS.

‘The argument that my beliefs, which I believe are shared by many, are not worthy of protection under the law must end.

‘This case is not about me. I am fighting it for younger generations of Christians who have mortgages to pay and careers to lose.’

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting his case, added: ‘In a truly free society we must be able to question and critique each other’s beliefs.

‘In this respect, Brian has been vindicated and the judge has ruled that he was free to question another faith and belief.

‘Christian social values advocate for the freedom of the individual to live and speak out their beliefs in a free society and to seek to persuade others of their beliefs in a democratic society.

‘We stand with Brian as he continues to seek justice in this case.’

Mr Walker previously made headlines in February 2018 when the Scout Association removed him from his position as a youth leader for comparing a Muslim colleague, who was waring a niqab, to the Star Wars villain Darth Vader.

Mr Walker, who served in the armed forces for 11 years, which included serving with the SAS, insisted he had not wanted to cause personal offence.

He asked Boris Johnson, who was foreign secretary at the time and had faced an investigation by the Conservative Party for making jokes about Islamic face covering, to act as an expert witness to defend him for making what he described as ‘a quip, light-hearted tongue-in-cheek humour’.

The case ended when the Scout Association agreed to settle out of court.