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World News

Lib Dems sued by deselected Christian who claims he was 'mocked and abused' over his faith

by Donna Birrell

A Christian who was deselected as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats is suing the party for discrimination.

It is believed to be the first time that a political party in the UK has faced legal action for discrimination because of someone’s Christian faith.

David Campanale, a former BBC and Premier journalist alleges he was “mocked and abused” because of his faith. He claims the deselection process didn’t follow party rules and that the “true motivation” was because of his religious beliefs.

The civil claim, which has been seen by Premier, says that throughout his career Mr Campanale has never hidden his faith or religious beliefs and "has at all times been a material Christian".

He was selected as the Lib Dem candidate for Sutton and Cheam in January 2022 but the claim states that “almost immediately" afterwards he was the subject of complaints made by certain members of the local party "that culminated in attempts to deselect him as PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate). This was before he had opportunity to perform in that role.”

The claim states that these “complaints were because of his protected beliefs and the steps taken to deselect him were motivated primarily by animosity from Local Party members to his protected beliefs.” He was deselected as PPC in August 2022. 

Mr Campanale also claims that at one meeting he was “interrogated by around 30 people about his Christian beliefs.” The claim says he was “mocked and abused” and asked among other things if he was “enjoying his martyrdom just like Jesus did”.

He is appealing against his deselection, alleging the process did not follow party rules and that none of his complaints to the party about his treatment were properly investigated. The claim states that by September 2022 he had made at least 26 separate complaints and concerns to the party but that "they failed to act on any of his concerns and/ or take his complaints of discrimination and victimisation seriously".

A petition to reinstate him has now received more than 20,000 signatures, including the Bishop of Guildford, Rt Rev Andrew Watson who told The Telegraph:

“We are quite rightly as a nation very aware of and critical of other parts of the world where people are discriminated against on the basis of their religion and faith…It is important that we are not pointing the finger at others whilst doing the same thing ourselves. It is important that people of faith can participate in public life.”

He said that there are times when Christians with “relatively conservative views” can be seen as “fair game” and subject to “hostile and degrading questions” in a way that wouldn’t be “landed on others” of other faiths which are “rightly protected” amid concerns including Islamophobia or anti-Semitism.

The Bishop of Winchester Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen has also tweeted his support for Mr Campanale, calling the decision to deselect him “shockingly illiberal”.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: “The Liberal Democrat leader and all of our London MPs are churchgoing Christians, and this complex case about David Campanale which began during Covid, resulted in him being deselected and the local party overwhelmingly voting for a new candidate.”

The claim for damages is brought against the Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats, the London Regional Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrats in England - collectively known as the "Party".

Under the Equality Act 2010 freedom of religion or belief is a protected characteristic.  

 

 

 

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