Christian in UK challenges denial of job over beliefs

By Chris Eyte |
Felix Ngole.
Felix Ngole. | (Christian Daily International screenshot of Christian Concern video)

A social worker denied a top job out of fear his Christian beliefs on marriage would result in him killing LGBT+ colleagues is seeking redress at an employment tribunal in a landmark case in the U.K.

When Felix Ngole, 46, applied as a mental health support worker at Wakefield Hospital in Leeds, recruitment firm Touchstone Support Leeds turned him down in May 2022 after discovering he had won an unrelated legal case over his right to freedom of speech. 

Ngole had won on appeal in 2019 after the University of Sheffield banned him from a social worker training course for quoting Bible passages relevant to same-sex marriage in a Facebook debate. The court ruled that his Christian beliefs did not mean he would discriminate against anyone. Ngole returned to the university course and qualified as a social worker.   

In the current case against Touchstone, the Christian Legal Centre said Ngole lost a second-round job interview for refusing to embrace and promote LGBTQ+ rights.  

Dr. H. Eli Joubert, in support of Touchstone, told the tribunal that if LGBTQ+ service users discovered Ngole’s Christian beliefs on gender and sexuality online, the result could be “death” to one or more of them, Christian Concern reported. 

Senior staff at Touchstone held a similar view about the supposed deadly consequences of Ngole’s beliefs, according to Christian Concern. The Bible verse John 3:16 was said to be “triggering” to LGBTQ+ service users. 

Touchstone lawyers emphasized “Minority Stress Theory” in their argument in court, which holds that minorities suffer stress from stigma and discrimination. The Christian Legal Centre argued that politely giving a different opinion about gender issues cannot be construed as causing psychological damage. 

Ngole said that Touchstone had informed him he was the best candidate for the job before “they suddenly found I was unemployable because they discovered that I am a Christian.”

“No one has ever told me that I have not treated them well in my professional experience,” Ngole said. “I have never been accused of forcing my beliefs on anyone.”

Ngole said he had supported vulnerable people from all backgrounds, including LGBTQ+.

“It was a brilliant interview; I was greeted warmly, and they were really kind to me,” he said. “I was offered the job, and they were already talking to me about my first day and who my line manager would be. When I received the email telling me that the job had been withdrawn, it was a shock. I was very confused and distraught, and I wanted to know why.”

Christian Concern stated Touchstone bosses told him that his Christian beliefs did not “align” with the NHS recruitment firm’s “inclusive employer” status, and that employing him posed a risk to the company’s reputation. 

Touchstone also informed Ngole that as an employee, he would undergo compulsory LGBTQ+ training. He could not share biblical perspectives, although colleagues would be allowed to express LGBTQ+ affirming views. 

Ngole tried to reassure Touchstone that he never forced his beliefs on or discriminated against anyone, but his job offer was withdrawn. 

“The reasons they gave for withdrawing the job offer were an attack on me and my faith,” Ngole said. “They made it seem that 100 percent of the people I would be helping would be LGBT, and that I had to pledge allegiance to the LGBT flag and forget about my Christian beliefs.”

The social worker said employer discrimination against Christian beliefs was “untenable,” forcing people to promote an ideology that violates their conscience in the workplace. 

“There was no mutual respect, and no tolerance and inclusion of me and my beliefs whatsoever,” Ngole recalled. “If we get to the point where if you don’t celebrate and support LGBT you can’t have a job, then every Christian out there doesn’t have a future. You can study as much as you like, but you will not have a chance.”

Formerly an asylum seeker after fleeing Cameroon, Ngole said the U.K. was once a “bastion of free speech and expression,” but it has changed.

“I was once an asylum seeker; I had no job, no home, but those in my community treated me with great kindness,” he said. “I have to show that kindness, not just because I’m a Christian, but also because that is what I received.”

Ngole gained the highest marks of any candidate in an equality and diversity assessment in a test in May 2022, according to Christian Concern. 

“I have no choice but to pursue justice again, because if this is happening to me, it will be happening to Christians and individuals from all beliefs and backgrounds across the country,” Ngole said. “I cannot deny my faith to get a job. One day I will leave this world, and I won’t leave with anything other than my faith. I will be happy to be a cleaner, if need be, as long as I keep my faith and am right before God.”

Ngole suffered direct discrimination, harassment and breaches of the U.K. Equality Act 2010, according to the Christian Legal Centre, which supports him in the case that began on April 2. Ngole seeks compensation and a recommendation that Touchstone alter its recruitment procedure to adhere to its objective as an inclusive employer and not exclude Christians from employment. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said that the case represented a “dark and troubling precedent” for Christians generally if employers were allowed to force employees to promote LGBTQ+ lifestyles. 

“If left unchallenged, it would see Christians who manifest their beliefs barred from working in the NHS [National Health Service] and other institutions,” Williams said. “Felix loves Jesus and the Bible’s teaching, and you could not ask for a more compassionate mental health worker to support the most vulnerable in our communities.”

The NHS and its providers need more social workers like Ngole, not fewer, she said.

“The Court of Appeal judgment in Felix’s case against the University of Sheffield was a major development of the law and must be upheld and respected in current and future Christian freedom cases,” she said.

Williams suggested that Touchstone had been “captured” by prominent LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall, resulting in “confident totalitarianism.” 

“Viewpoint discrimination is escalating in the U.K. at an alarming rate,” she said. “We have seen in the recent cases of high street banks denying Christians and free speech advocates the right to a bank account how far organizations captured by Stonewall are prepared to go. Anyone who does not comply and celebrate LGBT ideology must become a ‘non-person.’’