John Howard Centre patients sue NHS trust for ‘religious discrimination’ over lack of Christian services

Patients at the John Howard Centre are suing the NHS trust for religious discrimination.

Patients at the John Howard Centre are suing the NHS trust for religious discrimination. - Credit: Archant

Patients at the John Howard Centre in Homerton are taking legal action against the NHS trust that runs it over religious discrimination, the Gazette can reveal.

Bosses at the medium secure unit in Kenworthy Road are being accused of direct and indirect discrimination against Christians.

A group of patients argue because Jummahs – Islamic Friday prayers – are written into the curriculum, they are being unfairly treated by having no regular Sunday service or holy communion.

The John Howard Centre treats people with mental health problems who have been arrested or convicted of crimes.

One patient, who gave his name only as Esa, told the Gazette: “There hasn’t been a Christmas service here for years.

“They have put a weekly service for Muslims into the curriculum but for Christian services there is nothing.

“We’ve been asking for ages and they haven’t really given us a reason why. They just say it’s obligatory for Muslims to have services but that it’s not for Christians.

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“We have said: ‘Excuse me, it’s obligatory for you to cater for all religions’ but they just haven’t done it.”

Esa, who did not want to say why he was in the centre, but admitted he had been violent in his life, added: “At the end of the day, sinners need Jesus.”

The case is being brought against the East London Foundation Trust (ELFT), which runs the centre.

The Christian Legal Centre in central London is backing the patients in the case. However, ELFT is hoping it will be settled before it gets to court.

A spokesperson also disputed that there were no services for people of Christian faith.

They said: “The trust strongly supports service users in observing their faith.

“The trust has a specialist team, the Department of Spiritual, Religious and Cultural Care which consists of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu coordinators and an ordained Buddhist priest.

“They visit inpatient areas to discuss the spiritual and religious needs and traditions of each individual with them.

“The spiritual needs of an individual feature as a key part of the way care is planned, and is an area of care that is monitored by the CQC.

“The John Howard Centre caters for a range of religious needs. Attendance at services and activities are optional. Communion is available on an individual or small group basis according to the tradition of the individual. A carol concert and prayers took place in December.

“The trust refutes the claim of discrimination and looks forward to providing clarity on its arrangements.”