Prison gardener who told gays to ‘repent’ claims he is being censored
A prison gardener who quit his job after being told to stop preaching homophobia to inmates is continuing his legal battle with his former employer.
Barry Trayhorn was employed as a gardener at HMP Littlehey in Bedfordshire, but began helping with chapel services due to his training as a Pentecostal minister.
During a chapel service in 2014, he claimed that the “sexually immoral” and “men who have sex with men” must abandon their sins to “inherit the kingdom of God”.
Following complaints, Trayhorn was barred from taking part in chapel services and told to stick to his contracted gardening duties – though he claims he was just “sharing the Bible”.
In November 2014, the gardener resigned – claiming that he was being ‘harassed’ due to his Christian faith, while facing other questions about his conduct.
He subsequently took up legal action with the help of Christian charities, claiming that he was simply spreading “God’s word” and that he was being persecuted because of his views about “homosexual behaviour”.
His case was dismissed by the Employment Tribunal last year, but Trayhorn is this week appealing against the decision.
Mr Trayhorn said: “I am pleased and thankful that I have an opportunity to challenge the Employment Tribunal’s ruling and I pray that the Judge who hears my case will understand the implications for many Christians, if the Tribunal’s decision stands.
“Prisoners need to hear God’s word just as much as anyone else. If people come to a Christian chapel service, we cannot hold back the gospel truth that God forgives those who repent.
“As I led the worship, I spoke about the wonder of God’s love and the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ to those who recognise their sin and repent. I said that I am the worst sinner I know.
“But the prison decided that wasn’t a politically correct message. The mere mention of homosexual behaviour in the Bible verses that I quoted provoked complaint. It is the Bible which is really on trial.”
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His case is supported by the Christian Legal Centre, an offshoot of anti-LGBT group Christian Concern which frequently defends people who face consequences for homophobic practices.
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is our privilege to continue to stand with Barry during this next stage of his case as he challenges the Tribunal’s decision.
“If the courts won’t recognise the way that some Christians are being treated, just for living out their faith at work, and if gospel truth cannot be spoken in a Christian service which prisoners voluntarily chose to attend, where will we encounter such censorship next?
“The gospel is a message of hope and forgiveness and neither prisoners nor anyone else should be denied access to it.”
The case previously attracted some attention due to a related row – after BBC radio presenter Iain Lee branded a representative of Christian Concern a “bigot” during an on-air discussion of the issue.
Lee lost his BBC show after the row, but is now a presenter on commercial station talkRADIO.