Christian carer who refused to work on Sundays ‘denied rights given to a Muslim allowed to visit mosque’

This was the headline to a report in yesterday’s Daily Mail. It’s always interesting to see the Mail suddenly acquiring an interest in employment rights – not a subject that usually looms large among the paper’s concerns. Unfortunately, the only time this issue arouses the Mail‘s interest is when it offers the opportunity to have pop at Muslims.

The article begins: “A Christian care worker was forced from her job for refusing to work on Sundays even though a Muslim colleague had time off on Fridays to visit the mosque, a tribunal heard yesterday. Celestina Mba, 57, claims she was threatened with disciplinary action after telling her employer her church duties came first. In her evidence, she said she felt so intimidated by bosses at Brightwell children’s home in Morden, South London, that she had to resign.”

Right-wing Christian fundamentalist Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, which is backing Ms Mba’s claim, is quoted as saying: “This is another example of Christianity being marginalised in public life…. Increasingly, we see a readiness among employers to accommodate other religions but Christianity seems to be fair game.”

In the absence of any information about Ms Mba’s contract of employment it is impossible to say whether she has a case in law. However, the charge that her employer discriminated against Christian in favour of Muslim workers is plainly nonsense. As one of the comments on the Mail report points out: “I guess the woman in the article wanted the WHOLE DAY OFF, as opposed to Muslims who would only ask for an hour or two off, basically the lunch hour for normal working people. However, the article above does not highlight this.”

Update:  The Wimbledon Guardian reports that Ms Mba has lost her case:

Judge Heather Willams QC said Merton Council did not promise Miss Mba that she would never have to work on Sundays when she interviewed for the job in 2007, but still reasonably accommodated her belief for two years – a belief which is not held by all Christians.

Judge Williams said Miss Mba’s former manager at Brightwell, John Deegan, had not appreciated the full scope of her belief of not working on Sundays.

She said: “Mr Deegan understood the claimant to have current commitments to her church, but did not appreciate that her religious belief meant she could never work on Sundays. If he had done so the issue would have been explored more fully at that junction.

“There was no express agreement ever arrived at by the parties that the claimant would never have to work on Sundays. On the contrary, she was contracted to work on Sundays.”

Needless to say, the Daily Mail report of the outcome of the case doesn’t see fit to mention these details.