A Christian mayoral candidate for a local council in London, Maureen Martin, has recently won a substantial settlement following her dismissal by her housing association employer, L&Q, for expressing Christian beliefs on marriage as part of her election campaign.
This case is believed to be the first of its kind where a political candidate has been fired over their Christian beliefs. It is another example of the growing number of cases of people losing their jobs because of their faith, with Christian freedom under attack both in Australia and around the world.
Martin had worked for L&Q as a housing manager for 13 years with an unblemished record. However, her dismissal came after three anonymous complaints of alleged ‘hate speech’ were made to her employer, following the distribution of her campaign material in Lewisham. Martin had written: “Marriage: I pledge to cut through political correctness and simply state the truth that natural marriage between a man and a woman is the fundamental building block for a successful society, and the safest environment for raising children.”
As a result, she was suspended, interrogated, investigated, and then dismissed for gross misconduct.
L&Q claimed that Martin's campaign material and tweets were “homophobic” and breached the company's social media policy.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Martin took legal action against L&Q on the grounds of discrimination, harassment, indirect discrimination, and unfair dismissal. Lawyers argued that her dismissal was in breach of her right to political speech under Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and that L&Q had shown an entrenched position during disciplinary procedures.
Following her dismissal, 42,000 people signed a petition calling for an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996 to protect free speech.
One year after the local elections, Martin commented on the situation, stating that it was essential for Christians to challenge discrimination:
“I am pleased that L&Q has paid out such a substantial sum following the sacking. I know God brought me through this situation and I cannot emphasise more the importance of Christians taking a stand when being discriminated against.”
Ms Martin is adamant that she will run again as a mayoral candidate in 2024, affirming her right to hold and share her Christian beliefs:
“I will absolutely be standing again as a mayoral candidate in 2024 in Lewisham. My message will not have changed. You can fire me, but you cannot silence me.”
This settlement is a big win for religious freedom.
Here in Australia, the Human Rights Law Alliance remains dedicated to supporting ordinary Australians who encounter similar challenges. By defending their religious freedom, as well as their freedom of thought, speech, and conscience, the HRLA plays a vital role in setting crucial legal precedents which will ensure that all Australians can continue to live according to their conscience, and freely think and act in the public square.
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