UK: Man has his job offer rescinded after Company learns about his Christian Beliefs
Felix Ngole, a Christian social worker, had a job offer by Touchstone Support withdrawn after the company found out that he won a free speech case over his Christian views. He says: “The reasons they gave for withdrawing the job offer were an attack on me and my faith." Ngole is now taking Touchstone to an employment tribunal.
Back in 2019, Ngole won a “landmark” freedom of speech case during his studies at the University of Sheffield. He had been suspended from continuing his studies in social work in 2015 over a Facebook post saying that he believed marriage was between a man and a woman. But after challenging the suspension, he won the case for freedom of speech, with the Court of Appeal ruling that "Mr Ngole would never discriminate against anyone" because of his personal views. The court ruled that “the mere expression of religious views about sin does not necessarily connote discrimination” and Ngole was able to finish his studies, qualifying as a social worker.
After this, Ngole successfully applied for a job at the mental health organisation Touchstone Support in Leeds, but this job offer was withdrawn after they found out about the earlier case. The company, which is backed by the LGBT lobby group Stonewall, asked Mr Ngole to show a commitment to “embrace and promote LGBT+ rights.” Mr Ngole told the Mail on Sunday how he had been questioned by Touchstone on his Christian values: "'It was an attack on my faith. While they fell short of calling me homophobic, they portrayed me as someone who doesn't like people from the LGBT community and was going to cause them harm. I was distraught. It's not who I am as a Christian. I would never discriminate against anyone – that's the opposite of what the Bible teaches."
Mr Ngole was offered political asylum in the UK after facing political persecution in Cameroon. After a promising interview in May last year, he was offered the dream job at Touchstone. The role would have involved working at Wakefield Hospital to manage the discharge of patients with mental health conditions into the community. But a few weeks after the first interview, he received an email from Touchstone's deputy chief executive, Kathryn Hart, stating that he was unsuitable for the position. After discovering the previous case, Hart told Ngole that he would be unsuitable for the Wakefield position: “We can see that you have very strong views against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, which completely go against the views of Touchstone, an organization committed to actively promoting and supporting LGBTQ+ rights.” She added that they would reconsider if he would assure Touchstone that he would embrace their values.
Mr Ngole replied that he would not discriminate against anyone, but he did mention that "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."
He was invited to a meeting on the 11th of July, with Ms Hart and Touchstone's operations director, Dave Pickard. Ngole: "It was like being interrogated back in Cameroon…I was asked if I'd use people's correct pronouns and forge partnerships with LGBT support organisations. I kept saying it was no problem. I think they were concerned that employing me would risk their Stonewall ranking."
A week later, Mr Ngole received an email withdrawing his job offer. Touchstone said his beliefs would be 'upsetting and offensive' to patients. Mr Ngole is now taking Touchstone to an employment tribunal, claiming under the Equality Act for discrimination, harassment and compensation for injury to feelings. The hearings will proceed from the 10th to the 14th of July, 2023.
Ahead of the hearing, Mr Ngole, said: “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… 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. There was no mutual respect and no tolerance and inclusion of me and my beliefs whatsoever…If we get to the point where if you don’t celebrate and support LGBT you can’t have a job, then every Christian out there doesn’t have a future. You can study as much as you like, but you will not have a chance… I have no choice but to pursue justice again because if this is happening to me it will be happening to Christians and individuals from all beliefs and backgrounds across the country."
Freedom of Speech Case: Daily Mail
Photo courtesy of Christian Legal Centre.