British counsellor sacked for not helping gay couples

October 26th, 2008 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 26 (IANS) A relationships counsellor is suing his organisation for dismissing him from service because he admitted that his Christian beliefs prevent him from giving sex therapy to gay couples. Relate Avon, Britain’s national counselling service, dismissed Guy Macfarlane, 47, from his job after he had problems talking to gay couples about their intimate sexual relationships. He has taken his case to the employment tribunal, saying he is a victim of religious discrimination.

A solicitor by profession, Macfarlane joined Relate five years ago. He is a devout Christian, he says, who regularly attends both Church of England and Pentecostal services in Bristol where he lives.

While training as a counsellor he had qualms about dealing with gay couples but overcame these during discussions with his supervisor. He has since helped a lesbian partnership.

But his real problems arose last year after he started to train as a psychosexual therapist, treating people’s intimate sexual problems. “In sex therapy, you are diagnosing their problems and setting them a treatment plan, not unlike a doctor,” he told The Observer.

He said he felt uncomfortable doing anything that would directly encourage gay sex. He had not expected to confront these issues until facing the prospect of providing therapy for a gay couple, when he planned to discuss them in confidence with his supervisor.

Macfarlane assumed that Relate would take him off the case. However, the company suspended him after fellow counsellors complained he was “homophobic”. After three weeks, he was reinstated and had to promise to abide by Relate’s equal opportunities policy, with the proviso, he claims, that he could raise issues in the future.

Following further complaints, however, he was told that he would face a disciplinary hearing because managers at Relate no longer believed he intended to uphold the policy. He was dismissed and his appeal was rejected.

“Why did they have to slam the door like that? This could force other Christians out of counselling. Some have already reacted with consternation, saying if it could happen to someone with my experience and skills, it could happen to them.”

A spokeswoman for Relate said: “Relate cannot comment until the employment tribunal has taken place.”

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