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Christian social worker denies charity’s users may have died if he was hired

A Christian social worker who believes homosexuality is a sin has denied claims that vulnerable service users may have killed themselves if he had been given a job as a mental health support worker.

Felix Ngole, 46, is taking the Leeds-based health charity Touchstone to an employment tribunal, saying his job offer was withdrawn after bosses became aware of his religious beliefs.

The Cameroon-born former asylum seeker had previously won a legal case when Sheffield University had tried to stop him completing his social work degree after it became aware of posts he made on social media about homosexuality and same sex marriage being a sin.

Felix Ngole court case
Felix Ngole previously won a legal challenge against Sheffield University after they tried to stop him from completing his social work degree (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mr Ngole, a grandfather of two from Barnsley, who has also worked as a youth pastor, housing officer and teacher, said his initial interview in May 2022 with Touchstone went well.

He was offered a job, subject to references, but was called back for a second interview after the organisation became aware of his Court of Appeal win against the university and his views on homosexuality.

The organisation was concerned service users could find out about his views by using internet searches, which could “negatively impact them”, Mr Ngole’s legal case stated.

In an email, he was told: “Unfortunately, we came across a number of articles on Google which suggest that your views towards the LGBTQ+ community do not align with Touchstone’s.

“In particular, we can see that you have very strong views against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, which completely go against the views of Touchstone, an organisation committed to actively promoting and supporting LGBTQ+ rights.”

The social worker, who has been a Christian since the age of four and believes in the literal truth of the Bible, said the second interview felt like “an interrogation”.

Michael Phillips, for the claimant, read out a part of a report submitted by Touchstone in which an expert discussed Mr Ngole’s views on homosexuality.

Mr Phillips summarised the expert opinion as saying Mr Ngole’s employment “may lead to the death of some service users”.

Giving evidence at an employment tribunal in Leeds, Mr Ngole said: “If just 2% of it (the report) was correct, that when people see me, they might kill themselves, I’m telling you, the graveyards in Barnsley, in Doncaster, in Rotherham, would be full.

“I love people, it’s part of my faith.

“I cannot say I am serving a loving God and hate the people he has created.

“That doesn’t reflect the person I am.”

Felix Ngole employment tribunal
Felix Ngole told the tribunal he did not need to agree with a person in order to care for them (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Ngole said he has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of what he had seen in Cameroon, and as a black person, he had experienced discrimination in the UK and that had motivated him to become a social worker.

Speaking of his second interview, he said: “I was meant to feel like my faith, the beliefs I had, were wrong, that I shouldn’t have such beliefs.”

After it was suggested he was aggressive in this second interview, Mr Ngole said he was speaking with passion.

He said: “I didn’t mean to be rude to anyone, I still don’t believe I was.

“I was simply defending my faith which I believe was under attack.”

He said during his work of more than 20 years, he has had no accusations of discrimination.

He told the tribunal panel: “I have worked with people from the Gypsy community, gay people and lesbians.

“Not long ago, I worked with a trans person and I treated them as a human being.

“When I look at a person, I see a human being, I do not look under your trousers to see if you are a man or a woman.

“When I hear what has been described in the (expert’s) statement, I feel really offended.”

In his witness statement to the hearing, Mr Ngole stated he did not need to agree with a person in order to care for them, adding: “Neither do I believe that I, nor anyone, must abandon their faith or beliefs in order to practise.”

He added: “As a Christian, I do not see any conflict in working with and for people from the LGBT community.

“That said, there is a distinction between respecting and loving the person and yet lovingly and respectfully disagreeing with their views and/or behaviours.”

About the second interview, he said in his witness statement: “I felt cornered, frustrated and humiliated at the suggestion that I would discriminate against certain groups of people mainly due to my Christian beliefs.”

Despite giving what he said were reassurances to Touchstone managers, the job offer was withdrawn.

Touchstone appears on Stonewall’s top employers list and displayed a rainbow flag on its website when Mr Ngole applied for a job, the hearing was told.

He is claiming direct and indirect discrimination against the organisation, which provides mental health services to 10,000 people across Yorkshire, and harassment.

The hearing continues.