A judge in Britain has ruled that a “secular atheist” train operator has a right to espouse his philosophical beliefs after the man was fired for posting on social media that he would not want to live in a “Muslim alcohol-free caliphate”.
A tribunal case concerning the firing of Jeremy Sleath, 63, from West Midlands Trains found that his beliefs are protected under the Equality Act of 2010, as it was determined that secular atheist thoughts are equivalent to those held by religious observers.
Sleath, who was described by the judge as a “character”, posted on Facebook last July: “Thank f*** our pubs open up today. We cannot let our way of life become like some sort of Muslim alcohol-free caliphate just to beat Covid-19,” The Times reported.
The post prompted someone to launch a complaint with West Midlands Trains, to which the train conductor replied: “Apparently someone has complained about a comment I made about hoping UK never becomes an alcohol-free Muslim caliphate! (Or Islamic State). Unbelievable but true! If that’s a controversial statement now, the world’s gone mad!”
“Incidentally, I wouldn’t want UK to become any sort of religious or theocratic state, whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Chinese politburo, or even Christian. I wouldn’t even want an atheist state, my faith, if it involved banning other beliefs.”
Upon his firing, Sleuth launched a legal challenge, claiming that he was fired from his position on discriminatory grounds, arguing that his opposition to one-religion and one-party states are seriously held beliefs and that “all religions and none should exist in harmony”.
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During an internal West Midlands Trains investigation, he said: “Most Muslim states in the world are alcohol-free, e.g. Dubai. I don’t think it’s slurring the Muslim religion; not all Muslims don’t drink. Some people might be Jewish by faith but still eat bacon.
“I did clarify [previously] that [when] I was saying that I did not want to live in a Muslim caliphate I meant no theocratic hard-line state.
“We do live in a Church of England [state] but it doesn’t have an impact apart from Sunday working hours.
“My ideal is a secular society where all religions can be together.”
Judge David Battisby agreed with Sleath that “the specific beliefs that Mr Sleath holds . . . are philosophical beliefs protected by the Equality Act 2010” and said that his case could go to a full tribunal hearing where the issue of discrimination will be determined. Mr Sleath will also bring forward a claim of unfair dismissal.
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