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Foul-Mouthed Reference to the Pope ‘Not Harassment’

A Catholic journalist who was upset and offended by a senior colleague’s foul-mouthed reference to the Pope has failed to convince the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that he was a victim of religious harassment. The words used by the editor were ‘merely an expression of bad temper’, the tribunal ruled.

The journalist was working a shift on a national newspaper when the Pope visited Britain in 2010. The newspaper was preparing a story relating to the pontiff but the article was delayed. The journalist became upset when an editor shouted across the busy newsroom: ‘Can anyone tell what’s happening to the f***ing Pope?’

Dismissing the sub-editor’s appeal against the dismissal of his harassment claim by an employment tribunal, the EAT ruled that the editor’s use of bad language was not intended to express hostility to the Pope or Catholicism in general and did not constitute harassment within the meaning of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

The EAT concluded: “No doubt in a perfect world he (the editor) should not have used an expletive in the context of a sentence about the Pope, because it might be taken as disrespectful by a pious Catholic of tender sensibilities, but people are not perfect and sometimes use bad language thoughtlessly. A reasonable person would have understood that and made allowance for it.”