Felix Ngole, a 46-year-old Christian social worker from Barnsley, has announced plans to appeal part of an employment tribunal ruling after being rejected for a job due to his views on homosexuality.

Ngole was initially offered a role at Touchstone Leeds in 2022. However, the offer was rescinded when it was revealed that he believes homosexuality is a sin. Despite being invited to a second interview and deemed the “best qualified” candidate, he was ultimately not hired. Ngole claims that his religious beliefs led to discrimination.

The tribunal agreed that Ngole was directly discriminated against when the initial job offer was withdrawn. However, it dismissed further claims of discrimination related to the second interview and the final hiring decision. Additionally, the tribunal rejected Ngole’s claims of indirect discrimination and harassment.

This case follows a previous victory for Ngole in the Court of Appeal, where he successfully challenged Sheffield University’s attempt to prevent him from completing his social work degree due to his orthodox Christian views.

Employment Tribunal Findings

During the hearing, Touchstone Leeds argued that Ngole’s views could harm vulnerable LGBT service users needing mental health support. Ngole, originally from Cameroon, countered that his religious beliefs would not interfere with his professional care for LGBT individuals.

Employment Judge Jonathan Brain acknowledged that Ngole’s religious beliefs influenced Touchstone’s decision to rescind the job offer, constituting direct discrimination. However, Brain stated that offering a second interview was a reasonable step, and questioning Ngole’s suitability did not violate his dignity or create an intimidating environment.

Judge Brain concluded that Touchstone’s actions were justified and proportionate, given the potential risk to vulnerable service users if Ngole’s views on homosexuality were discovered.

Ngole’s Response and Future Appeal

Following the judgment, Ngole expressed satisfaction with the finding of direct discrimination but voiced concern over other aspects of the ruling. “There are so many disturbing comments and conclusions in it as well, which leaves me with no choice but to appeal,” he said. Ngole emphasised that he has never forced his beliefs on others and has supported individuals from diverse backgrounds, including LGBT.

The Christian Legal Centre, which supports Ngole, criticised the judgment for its “mixed and chilling conclusions for Christian freedoms and free speech.” Andrea Williams, the centre’s chief executive, condemned the judge’s reasoning as “contorted.”

Touchstone’s Stance

Touchstone Leeds issued a statement reiterating their commitment to being a strong ally to both the LGBTQI+ community and religious communities. The charity emphasised its responsibility to protect service users and uphold its values, asserting that their actions were in line with these principles.

“We believe we did the right thing in defending this action and acting in line with our values, with the principle aim being to protect our service users, staff, and all involved with our charity,” Touchstone said.

Ngole’s decision to appeal will prolong the legal battle over the intersection of religious beliefs and professional responsibilities in social work.

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.