Counsellor 'sacked for refusing to work with gay couples'

Monday 01 December 2008 11:23 GMT

A Christian counsellor from Bristol is to take a charity to a tribunal after he was allegedly sacked for refusing to work with same-sex couples.

Gary McFarlane, a solicitor and former church elder, will allege the Bristol branch of counselling service Relate refused to accommodate his religious beliefs.

The 47-year-old, from Hanham, started training with Relate in May 2003 and said he enjoyed good relationships with clients and colleagues.

The father-of-two was suspended after meetings with his manager in October 2007, in which he claims he was asked to state his views regarding same-sex couples.

Mr McFarlane claims he was harassed and labelled a "homophobe" after his suspension was lifted, and following a further disciplinary hearing, was dismissed on 18 March.

He said: "I love the community of Bristol. I live in a great city, with a history. There is no room for oppression of any people and a return to the past.

"The issues are way bigger than one individual. Society will be the poorer if we do not balance rights fairly and respectfully."

Mr McFarlane will claim discrimination on the grounds of religion, unfair dismissal and harassment at Bristol Employment Tribunal Centre.

The Christian Legal Centre, which has backed Mr McFarlane throughout the process, has instructed human rights barrister Paul Diamond to represent him in the two-day hearing.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of Christian Concern for our Nation, said: "Mr McFarlane had an unblemished record of service for Relate and was trying to work out a way in which his Christian views could be accommodated."

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