Sarah Mbuyi (31) was fired from her job at a nursery in West London after having a conversation with a lesbian colleague in which she explained the biblical position on homosexuality and marriage. On 6 January 2014 her colleague at the nursery initiated the conversation and had asked whether she would be welcomed at church and whether God would approve of her civil partnership and allow her to marry in church. Sarah said that “God is not okay with what you do” but that “everyone is a sinner and God offers forgiveness”. Miss Mbuyi recalled: “When I said ‘No, God does not condone the practice of homosexuality, but does love you and says you should come to Him as you are’, she became emotional and went off to report me to my manager.” Following a complaint made by her colleague, Sarah was investigated and sacked for ‘gross misconduct’ within three days of the conversation (9 January 2014). She was told by her employers that her comments breached equality policies and that she had harassed her colleague.
In a brave judgment, the Watford Employment Tribunal chaired by Judge Broughton, found unanimously that Miss Mbuyi had been directly discriminated against because of her religious belief. The Tribunal recognised that Miss Mbuyi had not been treated fairly and that the decision to sack her may have been made on “stereotypical assumptions about her and her beliefs”.
Miss Mbuyi’s belief was described by the Tribunal as one which is “worthy of respect in a democratic society, is not incompatible with human dignity and is not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others”.
Furthermore, the Tribunal found that it had been not Miss Mbuyi, but her lesbian colleague, who had taken the conversation into the arena of homosexuality, and that there was no evidence to suggest that Miss Mbuyi targeted her colleague in an attempt to force her faith on her.
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