The Employment Appeals Tribunal in the U.K. has struck down the appeal of a prison worker who was prohibited from participating in chapel services after delivering a sermon about homosexuality and sin.
Rev. Barry Trayhorn, who worked as a gardener at Cambridgeshire's HMP Littlhey Prison, faced complaints from prisoners after he quoted a Biblical passage that was said to condemn homosexuality and other forms of sexual practice.
After a hearing in November 2014, the jail's governor concluded that he had made "homophobic statements" and sent him a final written warning.
Trayhorn resigned in 2015 after he was barred from participating in chapel services, and he later took his case to an employment tribunal. He contended that he was forced out of his job as a gardener through the way he was treated over his sermon.
He stated that he suffered discrimination and claimed that his human right to freely practice his religion had been violated.
In March 2016, the tribunal dismissed his case, arguing that the prison's disciplinary and equality policies did not "disadvantage" Christians, either singly or as a group. Additionally, the tribunal did not find any evidence that the prison had an "unwritten" policy that prohibited discussion of homosexual practices, or expression of Christian sexual ethics.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the 2016 ruling, stating that the policies at HMP Littlehey were legitimate in light of the prison's desire to maintain order as some inmates could find the passages quoted by Trayhorn offensive.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Trayhorn, expressed her disappointment with the decision.
"This ruling sets a dangerous precedent not only for prison chaplains but for any minister who preaches the gospel. To say that quoting a verse from the Bible can be offensive, could have serious implications on the freedom of prison ministers to share the good news of the gospel," she said, as reported by Premier.
"It was clear that Barry's talk centred on God's forgiveness and love for those who repent of their sin. This is a message that those imprisoned for sexual offences desperately need to hear. Our prisons are in need of the light of the gospel, yet this ruling sets a trajectory towards the Bible being forbidden in these institutions," she added.
Trayhorn, who intends to take his case to the Court of Appeal, said that he is concerned that the ruling will negatively affect other Christians in the U.K. who wish to share the repentance of faith in Christ to prisoners.