Individuals have a qualified right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion which includes the display of their religion or belief in worship, teaching or practice. As this is only a qualified right, the State can step in where one’s belief is harmful to the interests of a democratic society.In the case of Trayhorn v The Secretary of State for Justice UKEAT/0304/16, the employee, Mr Trayhorn, was a gardener at a prison and also an ordained minister. In addition to his services as a gardener, Mr Trayhorn volunteered his services in the prison chapel.
Mr Trayhorn was a Pentecostal Christian and had previously received complaints made against him in respect of comments made by him which others found offensive. Further complaints were brought against Mr Trayhorn that during a service, he had elaborated in a passage from Corinthians 6 which condemned homosexuality. Mr Trayhorn had previously being instructed not to preach at services in the prison chapel and to only lead in the singing of such service. As a result he was invited to a disciplinary hearing but subsequently was signed off sick and then later resigned.
Mr Trayhorn issued proceedings in the Tribunal for indirect discrimination relying upon the following:
- the application of the prison’s disciplinary and equality of treatment policies put employees who were of the Christian faith, (in particular the Pentecostal denomination) at a disadvantage;
- individuals from a Pentecostal denomination were more likely to discuss their beliefs which others may find offensive; and
- he had personally suffered a disadvantage due to being of the Pentecostal Christian faith.
The Tribunal rejected Mr Trayhorn’s complaints as Mr Trayhorn was unable to show any disadvantage suffered by those of the Pentecostal denomination or individually as a result of the prison’s policies. It was not the manifestation of his belief that caused the treatment but the way in which he manifested his belief.
The EAT made a distinction here which is well established, that individuals cannot rely on the protection of indirect discrimination if the group or the individual concerned is not suffering as a result of the disadvantage. The EAT identified in this case that not all Pentecostal Christians manifested their belief in this way, and therefore it could not be held to be a disadvantage for those who belonged to this particular denomination.