Prison gardener who told gay inmates to repent loses ‘religious freedom’ appeal
A prison gardener who quit his job after being told to stop preaching homophobia to inmates has lost 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”.
Trayhorn this week lost his appeal against an Employment Tribunal’s ruling that the prison was right to discipline him.
Trayhorn said: “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.
“In no way did my speaking from 1 Corinthians 6 intend to bully or mistreat anyone. I shared the gospel with them because I am motivated by the love of Christ to tell them that they can find forgiveness. I told the prisoners I am the worst sinner I know.
“I am worried that this ruling will restrict other people like me from sharing Christ in prisons – and even eventually in churches.
“Christianity is under attack in this nation. I cannot help but wonder if other faiths would be given the same treatment.”
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.
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Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This ruling sets a dangerous precedent not only for prison chaplains but for any minister who preaches the gospel.
“To say that quoting a verse from the Bible can be offensive, could have serious implications on the freedom of prison ministers to share the good news of the gospel.
“It should not be for the state to decide which parts of the Bible can and cannot be quoted during preaching, nor to dictate that verses that some may find unpalatable should be interpreted to fit with current social norms.
“It was clear that Barry’s talk centred on God’s forgiveness and love for those who repent of their sin.
“This is a message that those imprisoned for sexual offences desperately need to hear. Our prisons are in need of the light of the gospel, yet this ruling sets a trajectory towards the Bible being forbidden in these institutions.”
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.