Christian firefighter wins damages over refusal to work at Pride

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A Roman Catholic firefighter has received damages and an apology from his employers after he was disciplined for refusing to work at a gay Pride event.

Nine firefighers refused to work at Pride Scotia in Glasgow in June 2006 where they were supposed to be distributing fire safety leaflets.

All the officers were given written warnings and ordered to undergo diversity training.

One claimed that his religious beliefs should excuse him from duty at a Pride event.

John Mitchell lost three internal appeals then went to an employment tribunal.

Before the tribunal was about to begin Strathclyde Fire and Rescue said: “We reached an agreement without the need to go to tribunal.”

As part of the settlement, Mr Mitchell is not allowed to discuss the case. The fire service has apologised
and admitted they had failed to take account of his religious beliefs.

The National Secular Society said that Strathclyde Fire and Rescue should have gone to tribunal.

“The case would have set an important precedent – that public service workers cannot pick and choose which section of the public they will and won’t serve,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the society.

“Although no life was threatened because this man refused to hand out safety leaflets, what if he, or his colleagues, now decide that they don’t want to deal with homosexuals at all?”

The Christian Institute, who claim “the Bible is the supreme authority for all of life” and regulary oppose equality for gay people, welcomed the decision.

“I am pleased for John that he has won his case,” said Institute spokesperson Mike Judge.

“He is a fireman, so we know he is courageous. It takes courage to seek justice against a tide of political correctness.

“Firemen do an incredibly brave job. When they are pulling people out of burning buildings they don’t stop to ask whether the person they are rescuing is gay or straight. All they see is a person who needs their help.

“That’s how it should be.

“To suggest that he was not doing his job just because he wouldn’t attend a gay Pride march is an insult to his courage and the courage of his profession.

“Like many people in society, Mr Mitchell has sincerely held religious beliefs about moral conduct. He has beliefs, not hatred.

“It tyrannical to punish someone because they will not take part in a public rally on an issue with which they disagree. Shame on Strathclyde Fire and Rescue for doing so.”