CAMBRIDGESHIRE, U.K. — A Christian prison worker in the U.K. who was barred from participating in chapel services after quoting a Scripture that references homosexuality has lost his appeal, as an Employment Appeals Tribunal was not convinced that he had suffered discrimination.
The tribunal concluded that the policies at HMP Littlehey, a prison for sex offenders, were legitimate in light of the prison’s desire to maintain order as some inmates could find the quoted passage offensive.
“Justice Slade upheld the Employment Tribunal’s ruling that the quoting of [certain verses in] the Bible in a chapel service could ‘legitimize … mistreatment’ of homosexual prisoners,” the organization Christian Concern also advised via a press release on Wednesday.
“The ruling means that certain parts of the Bible may be regarded as off-limits for quoting and preaching from in a chapel service,” it lamented. “In effect, the state is determining that some parts of the Bible are acceptable to quote and some are not. If you quote the wrong part, you could face consequences.”
As previously reported, Barry Trayhorn, an ordained Pentecostal minister and gardener at HMP Littlehey, had volunteered his time and talents during the chapel services at the facility since 2012 at the invitation of the prison chaplain.
In May 2015, while leading worship, Trayhorn felt led to quote from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and exhort prisoners that forgiveness is available to those who will repent.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” the Scripture reads. “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
“As I led the worship, I spoke about the wonder of God’s love and the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ to those who recognize their sin and repent,” Trayhorn said in a statement. “I simply said what the Bible says. Prisoners need to hear God’s word just as much as anyone else. If people come to a Christian chapel service, we cannot hold back the gospel truth that God forgives those who repent.”
A complaint was lodged against Trayhorn four days later, and he was barred from assisting further with chapel services, being advised that he had violated prison policy and U.K. equality laws for speaking against homosexuality.
“The mere mention of homosexual behavior in the Bible verses that I quoted provoked complaint,” he outlined. “I was barred from taking part in chapel services and trouble came my way.”
Trayhorn was advised that a disciplinary hearing would ensue.
In August 2015, he left work after the stress literally made him sick, and officially resigned months later, citing harassment for his faith. A disciplinary hearing was held a day later.
Trayhorn soon took his case to an employment tribunal, contending that he was essentially forced out of his main job as a gardener through the way he was treated for quoting Scripture on homosexuality during the chapel service.
But in March 2016, the tribunal struck down his claim, opining that Trayhorn was not discriminated against on religious grounds “because of the way his message was received.” The court said that Trayhorn spoke in an “insensitive” way which “failed to have regard for the special nature of the congregation in the prison.”
“The tribunal’s reasoning was based on the effect that my message, which included the Bible verses, had on those who heard them. Yet, those who attend chapel do so voluntarily to worship God and to learn what the Bible has to say,” Trayhorn noted.
He was granted the right to appeal his case in November, but on Wednesday, the appeals tribunal found the lower court ruling to be correct.
“In no way did my speaking from 1 Corinthians 6 intend to bully or mistreat anyone,” Trayhorn said in a statement following the decision. “I shared the gospel with them because I am motivated by the love of Christ to tell them that they can find forgiveness. I told the prisoners I am the worst sinner I know.”
Trayhorn says that he is concerned that the ruling will negatively affect other Christians in the U.K. who wish to share the biblical message of repentance and faith in Christ in the nation’s prisons.