A Christian politician has won a substantial pay-out after she was fired by her employer for expressing her religious views on marriage online and in her electoral manifesto.
Maureen Martin - mayoral candidate for Lewisham in 2022 - was sacked by London & Quadrant Housing Trust (L&Q) for gross misconduct following three complaints of "hate speech".
The ordained minister was hounded on social media in April 2022, after stating as part of her manifesto that "natural marriage between a man and a woman is the fundamental building block for a successful society, and the safest environment for raising children,” ahead of local elections last year.
Following the publication, an image of the leaflet was posted on Twitter suggesting the manifesto “broke the law” and was “hate speech.”
Speaking on Premier's News Hour Maureen Martin explains that: "it was the people that were unhappy with my statement that put it on Twitter, and they sort of started to troll me as it were, and make really horrible comments about me. So they made the complaint. And my employer then saw it fit to accuse me of being homophobic, and of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community."
One complainant also flagged concerns about Martin’s previous criticism on her Twitter page of male athletes identifying as transgender taking part in women’s sport.
Martin, who was employed by L&Q for 13 years, was subsequently suspended for bringing the company into disrepute. An investigation was then launched to determine if comments made online and in her manifesto were "homophobic" and in breach of the company's social media policy. Martin was later dismissed for gross misconduct.
L&Q's dismissal letter said Martin’s tweets and beliefs could be: “perceived to be discriminatory, hurtful and offensive views towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, non-traditional families, and abortion.”
Speaking on Premier's News Hour Maureen Martin expressed her frustration that Christians in the UK are discriminated against for their religious beliefs.
"They fired me, I knew they would … I've always determined that from the very outset, I would not apologise, because as far as I'm concerned, I've been discriminated against because of my Christian faith. Not because I was a politician.
"If I made the statement in favour of the LGBTQ community and Christians complained, would the response be the same? I can categorically tell you - No.
"As a Christian politician, I have to stick to the Bible.
"If I'm being persecuted or censored, for sharing those views in a public forum, then we have to question 'are we a country where free speech is still the norm?'"
Following her sacking, 42,000 people signed a petition calling on the previous Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Dr Thérèse Coffey to amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to protect free speech for employees.
With the support of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), Martin launched legal action against L&Q arguing that her dismissal was discriminatory and in breach of her right to political speech.
The case is believed to be the first of its kind to see a political candidate fired by their employer for their Christian beliefs.
CLC argued L&Q maintained an "entrenched position during disciplinary procedures" and that the protected characteristic of sexual orientation "took priority over that of religion or belief."
Martin told Premier the incident has not deterred her from her political goals and she hopes the success of her case will encourage other Christians in the public sphere to speak out against religious discrimination:
"It does highlight the fact you have to challenge these views, you have to challenge the judgement, you have to challenge what has happened to you, you can't just walk away. If you don't challenge, nothing's going to happen - you have to put them in a position where they have to now make a decision.
"You can fire me but you can't silence me. Quite frankly, I'm now free from the shackles of 'woke' employers, of the danger of being persecuted by an employer threatening to taking my livelihood because they don't like what I say.
"This is the danger of what is happening - you're threatening to take away people's livelihood, their means of supporting and sustaining themselves and their families just because you don't like what they said, is quite egregious. And it's so outrageously wrong."
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Maureen is a courageous woman treated appallingly for having the guts to declare her belief that marriage between a man and a woman is best for children and our society.
“For speaking about a positive vision of life and marriage as a building block for the good of our society she was silenced and de-platformed in the political space for boldly speaking about her faith in Jesus.
“We had never seen a case like this which sent a crushing message to anyone who believes in Christian marriage and wishes to express those beliefs at work or in public office.
“LGBT ideology fuelled by Stonewall activists has captured institutions to such an extent that free speech and Christian freedoms have been intimidated into silence.
“No Christian political candidate must face such treatment again.”
Premier has reached out to L&Q for a statement.