Friday, July 25, 2014

In Britain, Theology Student's Unemployment Benefits Ended For Attending Communion Instead of Interview

Church Times today reports on a decision in Britain, upheld on appeal, to cut off the unemployment benefits of a theology student because he skipped a required interview to attend a Church service.  Graham Hodson was granted benefits when his student-related job ended. A month later he was ordered to have an interview with a Jobcentre Plus personal adviser. His request that the interview be moved a half-hour later so he could attend the weekly Book of Common Prayer Service was refused. He attended the Church service anyway and had his benefits terminated for failure to show up at his interview.  Administrative regulations excuse failure to appear at an interview only if it is for good cause, defined to include: "that the established customs and practices of the religion to which the person belongs prevented him attending on that day or at that time."  A First Tier Tribunal held that Hodson's actions did not fit the exception because attending Communion on Thursdays, rather than another day, was a mere preference, not an established practice and custom of the Church of England. An Upper Tier Tribunal upheld the decision on appeal because Hodson had said that he would make other arrangements to attend Communion if he were offered a full-time job.