LibDems reported to EHRC for deselecting Christian candidate

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: May 12, 2024

More than 400 party members filed a complaint with the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission which accuses the Liberal Democrats of deselecting a candidate based on his Christian faith in breach of equality law and having tolerated a “hostile environment” for people of faith. David Campanale, an Anglican believer and award-winning former BBC journalist has been targeted by an activist group within the party who has been lobbying against him because of his Christian believes since his selection as a candidate in 2021. The campaign alleged that he had not sufficiently disclosed his faith during the selection process, which he denies, and complained that a decade earlier he had been a member of the Christian People’s Alliance (CPA).

On May 12, several Members as well as the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum (LDCF) filed a complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for breaching equality law after interrogating David Campanale over his faith and then deselecting him as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam.

According to the Telegraph, the complaint includes accusations that the party has tolerated a “hostile environment” for people of faith, failed to investigate serious allegations of discrimination and harassment and “emboldened those who believe Christians should be driven out of public life”.

The letter to the EHRC, shared with The Telegraph, furthermore said: “This evidence depicts a supposedly liberal organisation allowing clear religious discrimination and hostility to thrive within its ranks. It suggests that Mr Campanale was driven out from his democratically elected position not because of any objective failings or wrongdoing but because a vocal group within SBLD [Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats] refused to tolerate his Christian worldview.”

The EHRC is now considering the complaint put forward by the group, which represents more than 400 party members.

The incident has sparked fear among other Christian members of the party. In the debate whether all former CPA members would be “cleared out”, one party member was quoted saying that he “wouldn’t be surprised if the night of the long knives included me”.

Attacks against Mr Campanale already started a few weeks after he was named as the Lib Dem candidate two years ago. According to his report, he was rounded on by dozens of local party members in an ‘ambush’ meeting, where he was branded a ‘Christian nutter’ for saying he would ‘vote with my conscience’ on extending the abortion time limit.

The members of the local Sutton and Cheam constituency party furthermore expressed radical secularist views, saying that the party’s former leaders Shirley Williams and Charles Kennedy, who were Christian, were ‘dead’ and ‘in the past.’

Mr Campanale has instructed a lawyer to sue the Lib Dems for harassment. His solicitor Paul Conrathe said: “The victimisation, harassment and bullying David Campanale has suffered from the Liberal Democrats at Sutton and Cheam is not only shocking, it is the canary in the mine for liberal democracy.”

Sources: Telegraph, Telegraph, Daily Mail (2024)The Times, Daily Mail (2022) (2022)FSU

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