Christian electrician launches legal action against NHS Trust

Brian Walker(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A Christian electrician is taking legal action against an NHS Trust after he was dismissed following a complaint from a colleague claiming he had made "offensive" comments about multiculturalism, Islam and marriage.

Brian Walker, 66, an electrician at Southmead Hospital, claims the complaints started after his 2018 settlement with the Scout Association for removing him from his position as a youth leader when he compared a Muslim leader in a niqab veil to the Star Wars villain, Darth Vader.

He said a colleague at the hospital complained after he spoke about his belief that same-sex marriage is contrary to biblical teaching.

In a meeting with his manager, he was shown a document of recorded complaints against him which included one entitled 'Regarding Religious Views'.

Although he was told the meeting was only an informal discussion, he was informed that the document would remain on his record for a year.

In response to this, Walker submitted a grievance claiming he had been sanctioned for "merely expressing my freedom of speech by sharing that I hold traditional Biblical values, particularly regarding marriage".

He alleges that further complaints were made by colleagues after he dropped off a newspaper for them containing a report of the settlement he had reached with the Scouts, along with some cakes, £5 for a colleague and an inspirational note.

It is alleged that colleagues claimed to have felt "harassed" and "intimidated" by the items, and that he was suspended upon his return from stress leave in November 2018, pending a full disciplinary investigation. 

The disciplinary panel concluded that his behaviour had been "discriminatory", and he was ordered to undertake equality and diversity training, and given a final written warning.

Walker decided to resign, feeling he had been put in an untenable position. 

He has launched legal action against North Bristol NHS Trust claiming discrimination, victimisation, and harassment.

His case is being heard online at Bristol Employment Tribunal on Tuesday.

Ahead of the hearing, Walker said the investigation had "nearly destroyed" his family.

"At the time of the investigation we were dealing with very stressful issues with our two disabled boys. Our sons could tell I was struggling, and it affected all of us," he said. 

"For 10 years we had voluntarily allowed the hospital, in partnership with the university, to allow students to come into our home to witness the challenges of bringing up disabled children.

"When we made this point to the hospital, bosses at the time of the investigation said that they simply did not care – we were irrelevant to them on a human level. Instead, they treated me like a terrorist and an extremist.

"Christian beliefs, and especially any expressing of them, are being suppressed in the NHS. The argument that my beliefs, which I believe are shared by many, are not worthy of protection under the law must end.

"This case is not about me. I am fighting it for younger generations of Christians who have mortgages to pay and careers to lose."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, accused NHS bosses of launching a "sinister campaign" against Walker. 

"Brian's story shows the dangers people face when daring to question or even joke about inclusion and multiculturalism," she said. 

"Christian social values advocate for the freedom of the individual to live and speak out their beliefs in a free society and to seek to persuade others of their beliefs in a democratic society.

"We stand with Brian as he seeks justice in this case."

A North Bristol NHS spokesperson said: "Whilst it would be inappropriate to comment on this case while it is ongoing, we have a zero tolerance policy to all abuse and racism and our policies are there to protect our staff, patients and visitors."