Christian prison worker forced to resign after
quoting Bible verses in prison chapel service
A popular prison gardener felt compelled to resign when officials "bombarded" him with allegations of bad behaviour, after a complaint was made about Bible verses he quoted at a prison chapel service, an employment tribunal will hear this week.
Ordained Pentecostal Christian minister Rev Barry Trayhorn will tell Bedford Employment Tribunal that he suffered an unfair and aggressive disciplinary process that provoked his resignation from the prison in November 2014.
The prison worker believes that he was harassed because he mentioned the Bible's teaching on sexual behaviour during a Christian chapel service at HMP Littlehey, a prison for sex-offenders.
Whilst leading worship at the service in May 2014, Mr Trayhorn spoke of the forgiveness that God offers to those who repent, quoting Bible verses from 1 Corinthians chapter 6.
Four days after the service, a complaint was made about what Mr Trayhorn had said, and he was immediately barred from participating in future chapel services.
Over the following weeks, a series of issues were raised about his conduct as a horticulturist at the prison, prompting disciplinary procedures.
In August 2014, Mr Trayhorn was signed off work with stress-related illness. His manager visited him at home on three occasions to discuss the work-related issues. On two occasions, she was accompanied by a senior prison official.
Mr Trayhorn resigned from his job as a gardener in November 2014, saying that he had been harassed because of his Christian faith and that it was impossible for him to return to work, given the way that he had been treated.
Two days after his resignation, a disciplinary hearing was held in his absence, at which he was given a final written warning.
'Bombarded by complaints'
Mr Trayhorn believes that the employment issues were only raised because of what he said at the chapel service, where he volunteered by invitation of the chaplain.
He felt bombarded by complaints and was forced first to take time off for stress and then to resign, he says.
A hearing begins today (Monday 2nd November) at Bedford Employment Tribunal and is expected to last until 10th November.
Mr Trayhorn is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre and will be represented at the Tribunal by Standing Counsel, Paul Diamond.
'Not politically correct'
Commenting on his experience, Mr Trayhorn said:
"I simply said what the Bible says. Prisoners have a right to hear God's word, just as much as anyone else. If people come to a Christian chapel service, we cannot keep God's message from them.
"As I led the service, I spoke about the wonder of God's love and the forgiveness that comes through Jesus to those who recognise their sin and repent. I said that I am the worst sinner I know.
"But that wasn't politically correct. The mere mention of homosexual behaviour in the Bible verses that I quoted provoked complaint. I was immediately barred from taking part in chapel services and trouble came my way.
"In the nearly three years since I started work until February 2014, there was one disciplinary issue over a lost tool. Once people started to comment on what I said in chapel, however, five issues were raised in quick succession.
"I was put under enormous pressure. This is about the expression of Christian faith. I am being punished simply for daring to say what the Bible says."
'Forced out for saying what the Bible says'
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
"It is astonishing that Rev Barry Trayhorn was forced out of a sex-offenders' prison for mentioning what the Bible says about sexual ethics during a chapel service.
“Prisoners have rights to go to church and they attend chapel services voluntarily. No-one should be denied an opportunity, if they want it, to hear what God has to say about the way to restoration, least of all those in prison for sexual offences.
“Mr 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 version of the Bible given to prisoners now to be censored to remove anything that people may find difficult to hear?"