Tribunal rules against Christian charity

Two former employees of Christian charity Prospects have won unfair dismissal claims on the grounds of religion in relation to the charity's policy that only practising Christians were eligible for promotion.

Former service manager Mark Sheridan left the learning disability charity after he asked it to change the policy. He was Christian at the time of the incident but has since lost his faith.

An employment tribunal in Abergele, north Wales, has ruled that he was constructively dismissed because, as a manager at the organisation, he had to implement a policy that prevented non-Christians from working in anything other than the lowest level positions, which made his position untenable.

The tribunal also found that fellow employee Louise Hender had been constructively dismissed as a result of the policy. Hender, a non-Christian support worker, was denied promotion under the policy. Damages have yet to be determined.

In a short statement, David Bendor-Samuel, director of corporate affairs at Prospects, said the charity would consider if there were any grounds for appeal in the two cases.

The British Humanist Association, which supported Sheridan, hailed the case as a landmark victory.

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the association, said: “The tribunal’s decision will undoubtedly have far-reaching repercussions for religious employers, because faith-based organisations will have to be much more stringent when they wish to discriminate on grounds of religion or belief in employment and attach a genuine occupational requirement to their jobs.”

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