A Christian mayoral candidate is taking legal action against her former employer after being sacked over the public expression of her marriage views in an election manifesto.
Maureen Martin, 56, was dismissed earlier this year from her job as a housing manager for L&Q in London following three complaints about her views.
During her 13 years of service with the housing association, she had an unblemished record and says she had good relationships with her LGBT colleagues and service users.
She began standing as a candidate for the Christian People's Alliance (CPA) in 2015, and in 2019 had her nomination papers signed by a former line manager at L&Q without issue.
In January 2022, she declared her role with the CPA on her employer's register of interests.
In her election manifesto, mailed in April to residents of the London borough of Lewisham, Miss Martin made a pledge on marriage "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".
L&Q subsquently received complaints stating that Miss Martin was "bigoted" and should receive "anti-oppressive training". The complaints also called for her to face disciplinary action.
Miss Martin was then suspended and investigated over her beliefs before being dismissed for allegedly bringing L&Q into disrepute, breaching its social media policy and failing to declare political interests.
The dismissal letter from L&Q said that her views could be "perceived to be discriminatory, hurtful and offensive views towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, non-traditional families, and abortion".
Miss Martin, who is President of the CPA and an ordained Christian minister, said she was "devastated" by her dismissal but "sadly not surprised".
"I have been an exemplary employee, and I believe my Christian beliefs have been an asset to L&Q. I have always gone above and beyond to help the people L&Q serve," she said.
"I have a right to express my own Christian beliefs in my own private time and should not be required to self-censor valid beliefs on marriage, abortion and US politics.
"I would not treat people in any way other than professionally. It was a general statement I made and I am quite within my right to make it."
Miss Martin is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) as she launches legal action against L&Q claiming discrimination, harassment, indirect discrimination, and unfair dismissal.
"We either have freedom of speech in the UK, or we do not. We must have the freedom to disagree with each other without it resulting in people having their lives torn apart," she said.
"I had stood as a political candidate while working for L&Q for six years without any issues.
"It is disturbing how Christian beliefs on marriage, which have been held and expressed for thousands of years, are being silenced and treated with such hostility and disdain.
"The message this is sending is if you want to engage politically and make a difference in your community, but if your views don't line up with the liberal agenda, you can potentially be fired from your job.
"If my manifesto had been in support of same-sex marriage, would I have had the same response?
"I am determined to fight for justice and to ensure that no other Christian political candidates and employees go through what I have."
It is believed to be the first time that a political candidate in the UK has been sacked for their Christian beliefs.
Lawyers for Miss Martin will argue that her dismissal breached her right to political speech as protected by Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
They will further contend that L&Q acted "outside the band of reasonable responses" in its actions towards Miss Martin.
The CLC called the case an "attack on democracy".
CLC chief executive Andrea Williams said: "For speaking about a positive vision of life and marriage as a building block for the good of our society she was silenced and de-platformed in the political space for boldly speaking about her faith in Jesus.
"We have never seen a case like this which sends a crushing message to anyone who believes in Christian marriage and wishes to express those beliefs at work or in public office.
"LGBT ideology fuelled by Stonewall activists has captured institutions to such an extent that free speech and Christian freedoms have been intimidated into silenced.
"Maureen is a courageous woman who has been treated appallingly for having the guts to declare her belief that marriage between a man and a woman is best for children and our society.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with her as she seeks justice."
L&Q said in a statement that it had a "zero-tolerance policy on discrimination of any kind".
"We are proud to promote equality for people from all backgrounds. Whilst we respect that individuals' freedom to hold particular religious or other beliefs is absolute, we do not tolerate it when these beliefs are manifested in a way that is derogatory or offensive to others. Several of our residents raised complaints with us after reading the leaflet," it said.
"L&Q therefore has a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination of any kind – whether that be shown through actions or words in the workplace, made public on social media channels, or shared in other publicly available materials or forums.
"This matter was investigated in accordance with L&Q's policies and procedures, and in line with equalities legislation and the ACAS code of practice, and the appropriate action taken.
"We have also engaged with our diversity networks during this case and are united in our commitment to a zero-tolerance approach."