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Christian prison worker 'forced to quit' for sharing Bible

Sun 01 Nov 2015
By Antony Bushfield

A Christian prison worker who claims he was forced to resign after being harassed for sharing the Bible at work is taking his case to an employment tribunal.

Ordained Pentecostal minister Revd Barry Trayhorn alleges he suffered an "unfair and aggressive disciplinary process" for talking about the Bible's teaching on sexual behaviour and homosexuality during a service at HMP Littlehey, a prison for sex offenders.

In May 2014 Mr Trayhorn says he spoke of the forgiveness that God offers to those who repent, quoting Bible verses from 1 Corinthians chapter 6.

Four days after the service, a complaint was made about what Mr Trayhorn had said, and he was immediately barred from participating in future chapel services.

Over the following weeks, a series of issues were raised about his conduct as a gardener at the prison, prompting disciplinary procedures.

In August 2014 he was signed off work with stress-related illness but said his manager visited him at home on three occasions to discuss the issues.

He said he eventually resigned in November 2014 because he was being harassed due to his Christian faith and that it was impossible for him to return to work, given the way that he had been treated.

Two days after his resignation, a disciplinary hearing was held in his absence, at which he was given a final written warning.

He thinks the issues with his work as a gardener were only raised because he had made comments at the chapel service.

A hearing begins on Monday at Bedford Employment Tribunal.

Mr Trayhorn said: "I simply said what the Bible says. Prisoners have a right to hear God's word, just as much as anyone else. If people come to a Christian chapel service, we cannot keep God's message from them.

"As I led the service, I spoke about the wonder of God's love and the forgiveness that comes through Jesus to those who recognise their sin and repent. I said that I am the worst sinner I know.

"But that wasn't politically correct. The mere mention of homosexual behaviour in the Bible verses that I quoted provoked complaint. I was immediately barred from taking part in chapel services and trouble came my way.

"In the nearly three years since I started work until February 2014, there was one disciplinary issue over a lost tool. Once people started to comment on what I said in chapel, however, five issues were raised in quick succession.

"I was put under enormous pressure. This is about the expression of Christian faith. I am being punished simply for daring to say what the Bible says."

He is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre. Andrea Williams, chief executive, said: "It is astonishing that Rev Barry Trayhorn was forced out of a sex-offenders' prison for mentioning what the Bible says about sexual ethics during a chapel service.
 
"Prisoners have rights to go to church and they attend chapel services voluntarily. No-one should be denied an opportunity, if they want it, to hear what God has to say about the way to restoration, least of all those in prison for sexual offences.
 
"Mr Trayhorn's words were nothing that couldn't be found in a rural parish church on a Sunday morning and were an explanation of repentance and forgiveness. Is the version of the Bible given to prisoners now to be censored to remove anything that people may find difficult to hear?"

The Ministry of Justice was not available for comment.

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