Duke Amachree - Who is telling the truth?

By Jonathan Bartley
December 16, 2009

The internal appeal at Wandsworth Council of Duke Amachree, the homelessness prevention officer who was sacked after allegations around his behaviour toward a woman with an incurable condition, took place last night. Wandsworth Council dismissed the appeal.

I received some information about it today, in which Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre states that Duke Amachree was "sacked for asking a sick client whether she has considered putting her faith in God".

Different people will see the 'truth' of the sacking in different ways, and that this may indeed have been his motivation. But the plain fact is that this is not the reason that was given by the council who did the sacking, and campaigners should tell the truth about what the allegations actually were - and that includes their own contribution to the events that unfolded.

The local paper has done so. A council spokesman told it: “The hearing heard compelling and overwhelming evidence that the staff member gave wholly inappropriate, unprofessional and unacceptable advice to a member of the public, which caused great upset and distress."

But this wasn't all. "After the member of the public had complained about his conduct, the staff member disclosed sensitive personal information about that person to the media."

This last statement referred to an interview Amachree gave to the Daily Mail. This was in fact after the involvement of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) began. The day after they issued their press release, the Daily Mail reported the story. At this point Amachree had only been suspended, pending an investigation.

This seems to follow a pattern we have observed in other similar cases. There we have talked to the parties involved where discrimination against Christians has been alleged, and the involvement of campaign groups has seemed to have entrenched positions and made matters worse, not better.

The council statement continued: "It is also categorically untrue to suggest that this is about a member of staff saying ‘God bless’ or that the council has a policy banning employees from making references to God in the workplace.”

I grew up in Wandsworth and my parents still live there. I now live just 100 yards away from the borough. I knew some of the councillors who were not backward in coming forward about their faith. There are many Christians who work for the local council, and it is truly absurd to suggest that there has ever been a ban on people saying "God Bless" or indeed that legally, that could ever stand up as a reason for a sacking.

The campaigning by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) on behalf of Duke Amachree has previously been alleged by a journalist on the local paper, the Wandsworth Guardian, to be "orchestrated to misinform". I would not go that far myself, but the result does seem to have been to mislead a lot of people.

This is how it has been reported:

Melanie Philips in the Mail:

"Duke Amachree...encouraged a client with an incurable medical condition to believe in God. As a result, Mr Amachree was marched off the premises, suspended and then dismissed from his job"


Andrew Alderson, Daily Telegraph: "Council worker Duke Amachree has been suspended for encouraging a terminally-ill woman to turn to God"


Cross Rhythms:"Duke Amachree Sacked Having Been Told "Say 'God Bless' & We'll Sack You" and "dismissed from work for encouraging a homeless woman with an incurable medical condition to look to God for help"


Cranmer: "Duke Amachree – sacked by Wandsworth Council just for mentioning God"


Independent Catholic News: "London: council worker sacked for mentioning God in workplace"


Christian Today: "sacked by a London council for suggesting that a client put her faith in God"


Anglican Mainstream: "Say God bless and we will sack you"


Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, surely a commitment to telling the truth is important?

This seems to be yet another case where the stakes have been raised and things have been made worse for the person at the centre of the controversy. Duke Amachree, I suspect, is actually a very nice and well meaning person. He is a victim in this situation, but as much because of the stakes being raised by the involvement of campaign groups, as anything else. The other victim, the woman with the terminal illness, apparently never wanted him sacked. This situation is unsatisfactory for all concerned.

In such cases a strategy of mediation and conciliation would be far more effective. It would be less destructive for all parties. It would also be more Christian. But to embark on that, one has to be willing to engage constructively, and at least acknowledge the version of the "truth" offered by the other side.

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