December 5th, 2013
A Christian care worker who said that she could not work on Sundays because of her faith has lost her case at the Court of Appeal. Celestina Mba, who is a Baptist, was required by her former employer Merton Council to work on Sundays, but she said that she could not do this because of her beliefs, and resigned from her job in 2010. After an employment tribunal ruled against her, she took her case to the Court of Appeal, but the Court has today ruled against her. The British Humanist Association (BHA) welcomes the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
Ms Mba was employed to work with children with severe learning difficulties at Brightwell Respite Care House in Morden. She said to Merton Council that she should not have to work on Sundays, so that she could obey the Fourth Commandment, which is to observe the Sabbath. Her lawyers say that she then agreed this with the Council, but that they later changed the arrangement, requiring her to work on Sundays and thus forcing her to choose between her job and her beliefs. Merton Council said that they could not accommodate Ms Mba’s refusal to work on Sunday, because of their duty to ensure that the children at the care home have weekend care.
The earlier employment tribunal rejected Ms Mba’s case on the grounds that observing the Sabbath is not a ‘core component’ of the Christian faith, as there are some Christians who are prepared to work on Sundays. Ms Mba asked three Court of Appeal judges to overturn the verdict of the employment tribunal, but they have refused to allow her appeal.
Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented ‘The right to religious freedom in the workplace should allow reasonable exceptions to be made for the expression of religious beliefs. However, it should not extend so far that it disrupts the employer’s business, or impacts on the rights of others, such as those who use the good or service which the employer provides. This case is just the latest example of attempts to establish religious exemptions in the workplace and in the law more generally, which are often backed by socially conservative religious groups. However, the courts have generally been robust in resisting these attempts to establish religious privileges, and we are glad that the Court of Appeal has rejected Ms Mba’s appeal today.’
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0773 843 5059.
The Guardian – Christian care worker who did not want to work on Sundays loses legal fight: http://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/dec/05/christian-care-worker-sundays-legal-fight
BBC News – Christian Celestina Mba loses Sunday shifts appeal: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-25229807
Previous BHA news article – Christian B&B owners lose Supreme Court appeal: https://humanism.org.uk/2013/11/27/christian-bb-owners-lose-supreme-court-appeal/
Read about the BHA’s policy on conscientious objection: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/conscientious-objection/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.