Case believed to be ‘first of its kind’, watchdog group says.
A Christian woman running for mayor of a London borough has taken legal action against her former employer, claiming she was fired for expressing her views on marriage as part of her campaign.
Maureen Martin, 56, was fired for gross misconduct by LONDON & Quadrant Housing Trust (L&Q), where she worked for over a decade. Her termination came after three complaints were filed in response to a campaign statement she made in support of the biblical definition of marriage, according to the advocacy group Christian Legal Centre.
As part of her campaign for mayor of Lewisham, just southeast of London, Martin shared a graphic stating her positions on knife crime, housing and marriage. She said that “natural marriage between a man and a woman is the fundamental building block for a successful society.”
Martin shared the graphic with residents in Lewisham on April 18 as part of her campaign. An image of her “six point plan” leaflet was shared on social media, with at least one user calling it “hate speech” and suggesting it “broke the law.”
In addition to her work at the housing trust, Martin is an ordained Christian minister who serves as president of the Christian People’s Alliance (CPA), a political party in the United Kingdom founded in 1999.
Martin worked for L&Q as a housing manager for 13 years with what her legal team describes as “an unblemished record and had good relationships with LGBT colleagues and service users in her non-customer facing role.”
According to the Christian Legal Centre, Martin was called into her employer’s HR office a few days later and informed of three anonymous complaints calling Martin “hateful” and a “bigoted moron.” A third complaint demanded that L&Q require her to “actively participate in anti-oppressive training and for disciplinary action to be taken to address her statements.”
She was told in a subsequent meeting that her tweets and manifesto were “homophobic” and in breach of the company’s social media policy.
When asked about her Christian beliefs on marriage, Martin told HR: “This is freedom of speech. What’s the point in being allowed freedom of speech if you can’t have it?”
“I’m a Christian. It’s just my preference that a marriage be between a man and a woman,” Martin reportedly told her bosses. “My view doesn’t affect my job in any way and hasn’t done since 2007. I’ve had no complaints from people of other sexual orientations or colleagues. I’ve never displayed or raised homophobic opinions in any form in my job.”
After being asked about posts on social media, Martin was asked if she would continue running for mayor of Lewisham, to which she replied in the affirmative.
According to Christian Legal Centre, Martin was accused of failing to declare political activity and a conflict of interest with L&Q’s policies banning staff engagement “in any political or campaigning activity that might compromise the position of L&Q.”
An investigating officer with the company allegedly told Martin that her stating her views on marriage publicly brought “L&Q into disrepute,” suggesting that her photo on the campaign leaflet “is clearly linked to L&Q.”
Martin was suspended until May 4 for “discrimination via homophobic tweets posted on Twitter” and bringing the company into disrepute, which in turn prevented her from resuming her mayoral campaign.
Following her suspension and a disciplinary hearing, Martin was terminated for gross misconduct. Her dismissal letter quoted by the Christian Legal Centre stated the cause was for tweets and beliefs “perceived to be discriminatory, hurtful and offensive views towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, non-traditional families, and abortion.”
Martin brings her legal complaint on grounds of discrimination, harassment, indirect discrimination and unfair dismissal.
In a statement to The Christian Post, Fiona Fletcher-Smith, L&Q Group Chief Executive, said: “We are proud to promote equality for people from all backgrounds. Whilst we respect that individuals’ freedom to hold particular religious or other beliefs is absolute, we do not tolerate it when these beliefs are manifested in a way that is derogatory or offensive to others.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the case is believed to be the first of its kind.
“We have never seen a case like this which sends a crushing message to anyone who believes in Christian marriage and wishes to express those beliefs at work or in public office,” said Williams.
In response to Martin’s firing, The Christian People’s Alliance said in a statement that “offense is part of a functioning society.”
“This fine nation once stood on the pedestal of freedom of speech however, this unparalleled action seems to be a way for the LGBT Cartel to dictate our thoughts and feelings,” the political party’s statement reads. “We simply can’t have a nation that prosecutes citizens for speaking out against immoral behavior or for having a different opinion.”
By Ian M. Giatti, Christian Post Reporter
Originally published on The Christian Post
(c) The Christian Post, used with permission