Christian council worker sues after being sacked for homophobic email

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A Christian council worker who was sacked for sending a homophobic email is suing her former employers.

Denise Haye, 25, worked at Lewisham Council’s legal services department.

Last September, she used her work email address to send an email to Rev Sharon Ferguson, head of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

She wrote that Rev Ferguson should be “ashamed” of herself and that homosexuality was “not normal” and a sin. Citing the importance of repenting in the “last days”, Haye added, in capitals, “the wages of sin is death”.

Speaking to The Voice, Haye admitted she had used her work email address but said she did not realise her name would be visible and claimed she had sent the message out of working hours.

She added: “It wasn’t with any malicious intent and it wasn’t with any hatred, it was out of sheer concern.”

After receiving the email, Rev Ferguson contacted Lewisham Council to complain.

She told “I’m not questioning that she thought she was doing the right thing. But there was no love and compassion in her email. It was full of death and damnation.

“She said she had used a feedback form to send the message. But she came away from the website to email me personally. I wouldn’t have had her email address if she had used the feedback form.

“I highlighted the issue to the council but the issue seemed to be more that she was surfing the internet during work hours. She said she sent it outside working hours but the time on it is 4.59pm.

“I raised it with the council as I have had a connection with them in the past and they are very hot on equality policies. They needed to be aware that their employee was sending homophobic emails.

“She could have been responsible for allocating housing or benefits. If a gay couple approached as they were homeless or on benefits, would she refuse them, or work slowly? It is important for the council to know. If she was prepared to use her work email for this, then she was obviously not keeping her personal views out of the workplace.

“She has had to sign up to the council’s equality policy and this is blatant disregard for it.”

Haye is now taking Lewisham Council to court for unfair dismissal. She was suspended for six months and then dismissed.

She is being represented by the Christian Legal Centre, whose director Andrew Minichello Williams told The Voice: “It is wholly disproportionate to end someone’s working career for the mere expression of orthodox Christian beliefs.”

Lewisham Council has said it cannot comment while the case is ongoing.