Clergy protected by civil employment law, court finds

A Zambian Industrial Relations Court (IRC) has dismissed the claim of an Anglican priest that he was wrongfully terminated by his diocese. Last week’s findings by the IRC in Ndola affirmed the right of clergy to bring employment disputes with the church to employment tribunals, but held that in this case the Rev. Richard Luonde (pictured) had been dismissed for due cause. In his ruling Judge Jones Chinyama, sitting with two other judges, held the the dismissal of Fr. Lounde was done under the conditions of service applicable to his employment contract. In his suit against the diocese of Northern Zambia and its bishop, the Most Rev. Albert Chama, Fr. Lounde alleged his dismissal was made in bad faith and asked the court to order his reinstatement as priest in charge of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Kitwe and to award him damages and costs in response to the church’s conduct. However, Archbishop Chama told the court Fr. Lounde’s pastoral relationship with the congregation had broken down. The priest had been offered a transfer to St Paul’s Parish in Mwinilunga, but he had refused to accept the post. In June 2013, the wardens of St Peter’s in Kitwe locked Fr. Luonde out of the church and filed a complaint with the archbishop accusing him of using parish money for political causes — Fr. Luonde is well known for his outspoken political activism and had been cautioned by his bishop for his partisan political campaigning. In its decision, the court held “the complainant served as a clergyman in the church and in our understanding, there was a definite breakdown of the relationship between him and the flock. We see nothing wrong with the termination of the contract. … We conclude, therefore, that the complainant cannot succeed in his lawsuit and we dismiss it. We will, however, order either party to bear their own costs.”

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