Christian counsellor fired by Relate
by Christian Legal Centre
Gary McFarlane, a Christian counsellor from Bristol, has been dismissed from his position at Relate after raising concerns about advising same sex couples on directive sexual therapy. Mr McFarlane had counseled same sex partnerships, but when it came to directive sex therapy, he felt that he would be directly encouraging sexual sin For several years he has been able to successfully counsel couples, helping them to restore their relationships. He has always received positive feedback from supervisors and clients.
In 2007 Mr McFarlane, whilst training as a sex therapist, discussed the potential conflict with his supervisor. However managers at Relate did not offer to accommodate Mr McFarlane's position but instead suspended him in December 2007 for what they believed was a breach of the equal opportunities policy. As a result, Mr McFarlane lost all his clients and was unable to continue counselling. In January 2008 he was reinstated on the basis that he would conform to the equal opportunities policy with the proviso that he could mention his concerns about sexual counselling in the future.
However, a short time after returning to his job, complaints were made by employees and Mr McFarlane was called into a disciplinary meeting and eventually dismissed in March 2008 after his employers concluded that he had failed to adhere to the equal opportunities policy. Mr McFarlane was not given an opportunity to discuss his views and no attempt was made to acccommodate his beliefs, despite his success as a couple’s counsellor.
Mr McFarlane also feels that the relationship of trust he shared with fellow employees was broken down after he discovered that details of his confidential discussions with his supervisor were leaked to other members of staff. Mr McFarlane became aware of a petition signed by twelve members of staff, demanding that he be removed from his position because of his views on sexual ethics. He was labelled 'homophobic' by fellow members of staff and treated in an increasingly hostile manner in the weeks before he was dismissed.
The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mr McFarlane as he brings a claim at the Bristol Employment Tribunal.
See Mail on Sunday article for futher information.
Relate was originally the National Marriage Guidance Council which was founded in 1938. By 1998 it was counselling couples in a much wider range of relationships and changed its name (to Relate). It now operates from nearly 600 locations nationwide.