Pastor who offered to ‘cure’ his gay colleague loses unfair dismissal and religious discrimination case
A pastor and airport baggage handler who offered a “gay cure” to his colleague has lost his claim for unfair dismissal and religious discrimination.
Colin Robert Houston, who worked as a baggage handler at Belfast International Airport, claimed that he was discriminated against at work because of his religious belief, political opinion and sexual orientation.
He said he had experienced a number of discriminatory incidents because he was open about his religious views, The Belfast Telegraph reports.
Houston’s contract with Swissport at the airport was not renewed last September, prompting him to take his case to an industrial tribunal.
But following the hearing in June, all of Houston’s claims were dismissed.
The tribunal said that Houston’s claim that a pink deodorant placed on top of his staff locker was harassment was “particularly paranoid and exaggerated”.
Houston had alleged that the women’s deodorant was put there to target him because of his heterosexuality and his views on equal marriage, as the colour pink is associated with homosexuality.
Same-sex marriage is still not recognised in Northern Ireland, despite pressure from LGBT activists to join the rest of the UK in legalising it.
Last month, Theresa May wrote an exclusive op-ed for PinkNews in which she pledged her support for the equal marriage movement in Northern Ireland.
Among his other complaints, The Belfast Telegraph reports, Houston said a bumper sticker reading the slogan “I’m so gay I can’t even drive straight” was stuck on his car while it was parked in the staff car park.
In another incident, Houston said that “sickening and offensive” graffiti was written in the staff toilets, which he believed was directly targeting him as a Christian.
Although the tribunal did agree that the graffiti was offensive, they did not agree that it was targeting Christians in particular, or aimed at Houston.
Despite Houston’s claims that his employer did not take his claims of discrimination seriously, the tribunal said that his manager had taken as much action as possible against the allegations, by drafting a memorandum warning against the behaviour, which was signed by staff.
The tribunal also heard that Mr Houston allegedly told an openly homosexual colleague that there was a cure for homosexuality.
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The co-worker chose not to make a formal complaint, but the tribunal ruled that the incident was mostly likely true, considering Houston’s views.
They said that they understood why Houston’s contract had not been renewed, due to the “catalogue of complaints” against him including the gay cure comment and aggressive behaviour.
Houston had previously been a councillor for the Northern Irish Ulster Unionist Party, but was suspended and then resigned after he openly voiced support for controversial pastor James McConnell in 2014.
McConnell was also defended by the Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader at the time, Peter Robinson.
Houston is now a supporter of the DUP, who currently have ten seats in the House of Commons which allow them to support a Conservative Party minority government.