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Social worker takes legal action over withdrawn job offer due to same sex marriage beliefs

A Christian social worker is taking legal action against a healthcare provider after it withdrew a job offer following the discovery of his beliefs on same sex marriage.

14/07/23

Social worker takes legal action over withdrawn job offer due to same sex marriage beliefs

A Christian social worker is taking legal action against a healthcare provider as it withdrew a job offer after discovering his beliefs on same sex marriage and sexuality.

Mr Felix Ngole is bringing the case against Touchstone Support Leeds, which provides services for the NHS, after the withdrawal of a job offer for a Mental Health Support Worker role. He is now referring the case to Leeds Employment Tribunal on the grounds of discrimination, harassment, indirect discrimination, and compensation for injury to feelings.

Mr Ngole’s lawyers say he was the best performing candidate when he attended an interview in May 2022 at Touchstone to become a Mental Health Support Worker based at Wakefield hospital. They say he gained the highest marks of any candidate, including on an equality and diversity assessment, and was ‘enthusiastically’ offered the role.

However, after discovering comments made by Mr Ngole, bosses at Touchstone said that unless he could demonstrate how he would ‘embrace and promote homosexual rights’ at the organisation, the job offer would be withdrawn.

Mr Ngole was previously at the centre of a free speech row after the University of Sheffield removed him from a social work course in 2015 for posts on Facebook disapproving of homosexuality.

Deputy High Court judge Rowena Collins Rice originally ruled that university bosses had acted within the law, however an appeal saw judges rule in his favour, stating “the disciplinary proceedings were flawed and unfair”. Following the ruling, Mr Ngole returned to the University of Sheffield to complete his social work degree and has since gained employment in the field.

After providing references for the job at Touchstone, senior leadership at the company discovered articles about the previous case and requested that Mr Ngole give assurances that his role would not be compromised by his views. As part of these assurances, bosses said that Mr Ngole would be required to ‘embrace and promote’ the organisation’s values, ‘including the promotion of homosexual rights’ or else the decision to withdraw the offer would stand.

Mr Ngole says he assured bosses that he would not discriminate against anyone but argued that he could not comply with the requirement to promote homosexual rights.

“What I cannot do, and you cannot reasonably expect me to do without yourselves being discriminatory, is make my participation in the ‘promotion of homosexual rights’ a condition of my employment,” Mr Ngole said.

Mr Ngole was then invited into a further two-hour meeting, where he and managers discussed his beliefs, ultimately resulting in the decision to withdraw the offer of employment being sustained.

“I was told I was the best candidate for the job, then they suddenly said I was unemployable because they discovered that I am a Christian,” Mr Ngole said.

“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.”

Mr Ngole added: “It is untenable for employers to be allowed to discriminate against Christian beliefs in this way and to force individuals to promote an ideology that goes against their conscience in the workplace.”

Asked for comment, Touchstone Support’s Chief Executive said: “As the matter is currently a live legal case it would be inappropriate to make any comments until proceedings have been concluded.”

The employment tribunal has now adjourned so further evidence can be submitted.

The hearing is expected to resume in April 2024.

Photo: Facebook/Felix Ngole

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