Northern Ireland

Christian pastor loses unfair dismissal tribunal

SWISSPORT logo Image copyright SWISSPORT
Image caption Mr Houston lost his claim against Swissport, which operates at Belfast International Airport.

A Christian pastor has lost a claim for unfair dismissal and religious belief discrimination, made against a baggage handling firm.

Colin Houston took the claim against Swissport, after his temporary contract was not renewed in September 2016.

Swissport operates at Belfast International Airport.

The tribunal heard the pastor showed "a level of aggression" towards colleagues and told one openly gay workmate there was "a cure for gayness".

It said in those circumstances any reasonable employer would have decided not to renew his contract.

Mr Houston made a series of allegations that he was being harassed because of his Christian faith and views on gay marriage.

However the tribunal dismissed these, saying the pastor did strike them as a credible witness and did not appear to be able to understand the difference between an unsupported assumption and hard evidence.

Image caption Colin Houston made a series of allegations that he was being harassed because of his Christian faith and views on gay marriage

It added that the evidence from Swissport managers was convincing and presented a picture of "a temporary employee who had been creating a succession of problems at work".

Mr Houston claimed one act of harassment involved somebody leaving a Mum brand Fresh Pink deodorant on top of his locker.

The tribunal said his reaction to the women's deodorant in a mixed locker room "seems particularly paranoid and exaggerated".

On another occasion a bumper sticker was attached to his car which read: "I'm so gay I can't even drive straight."

The tribunal said Pastor Houston produced no evidence that the sticker was placed on his car while it was parked at the airport.

The tribunal ruling stated that Pastor Houston believes he is well-known and has a significant public profile with particular interests in relation to same-sex marriages and abortion.

However, it added that none of the tribunal members had ever heard of him and it was clear that he is "not as well-known as he believes he is."

Mr Houston stood unsuccessfully as a council election candidate for the UUP in 2014.

He resigned from the party shortly after that.

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