A Christian minister and volunteer chaplain has been disciplined by prison authorities, his employers, for quoting a section of the Bible deemed ‘homophobic.’ He says he was forced out of his job due anti-Christian harassment.
Rev Barry Trayhorn, a Pentecostal minister and country and western singer, worked as a gardener in the grounds of HMP Littlehey in Bedfordshire before he began volunteering with chapel services in 2011.
Rev Trayhorn is now taking HMP Littlehey to an employment tribunal, as he claims he was forced out of his gardener job because of the case.
In one service given to prisoners, Rev Trayhorn read a version of Corinthians VI: 9-11, which lists various sinners who will not “inherit the Kingdom of God” including idolaters, drunkards, thieves, slanderers and “men who have sex with men.”
Before adding: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Rev Trayhorn told the Daily Mail that his intention was to explain to the congregation of inmates – many of whom were sex offenders – that the Christian faith teaches forgiveness above all else.
However, HMP Littlehey told Rev Trayhorn that the biblical quotes had breach equality laws and that he would be served with his finally warning after a disciplinary hearing.
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer observed:
“It is to be noted – once again – that the preacher did not focus on sexual sin: he included theft, greed and slander. But to mention the Bible’s teaching on behavioural ethics to convicted felons has itself become a felony.
“Oh, you can preach ‘Do not steal’ to the incarcerated thief in the hope of repentance and restoration, but God forbid that you might preach St Paul’s view of sexual ethics in a prison chapel.”
Rev Trayhorn said: “I was very angry. All I was doing was preaching the Bible and repeating the same message of repentance that was heard in many services.”
Before the hearing took place, however, Rev Trayhorn resigned from his gardening job claiming he was forced out of the paid position because of the subsequent intimidation he suffered as a result of his faith.
As he was still working out his notice he was sent the final warning, in which the governor, David Taylor, ruled that he was not an “antagonistic individual”, but was guilty of making “provocative” statements in breach of the prison’s code of conduct.
The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) has now taken up the case, and Rev Trayhorn will be suing for constructive dismissal. The Ministry of Justice declined to comment on the case.
CLC director Andrea Williams said: “Rev Trayhorn’s words were nothing that couldn’t be found in a rural parish church on a Sunday morning and were an explanation of repentance and forgiveness.
“Is the Bible given to prisoners now to be censored to remove anything that people may find difficult to hear?”
A Christian NHS employee who was suspended after praying for a Muslim colleague was recently granted permission to appeal against the decision of the tribunal which ruled against her.
The judge acknowledged the importance of the case of Victoria Wasteney for British Christian in the current climate, saying her “human right” to freedom of expression and religion may have been breached.