Man loses claim over removal of offensive messages from shop noticeboard

Mark J Savage, from Swords, alleged move was discrimination as notices based on religious beliefs

An evangelical Christian who was not allowed place notices in a supermarket has lost his claim that he was discriminated against on grounds of his religious beliefs. Photograph: iStock

An evangelical Christian who was not allowed place notices in a supermarket has lost his claim that he was discriminated against on grounds of his religious beliefs. Photograph: iStock

 

An evangelical Christian who was not allowed place notices in a supermarket falsely describing a prominent national politician as “a gay pervert” has lost his claim that he was discriminated against on grounds of his religious beliefs.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) dismissed a case taken by Mark J Savage under the Equal Status Act 2000 against SuperValu on the basis it was an “entirely frivolous and vexatious complaint”.

In its ruling, WRC adjudicator Pat Brady said Mr Savage’s notice was “a homophobic slur” and there was not even the remotest suggestion, even by him, that the allegations contained in his notices were true.

Mr Savage, a carpenter from Swords, Co Dublin, claimed he was discriminated against, harassed and victimised by SuperValu when it had notices he posted on a community noticeboard in its Swords outlet on February 6th, 2020 repeatedly removed.

He said the discrimination was repeated when SuperValu reported the incident to gardaí in a “malicious meritless complaint” which resulted in gardaí calling to his home on May 6th, 2020.

The notice claimed that the prominent politician facilitated “the sexual exploitation of innocent children by gay perverts”.

Manifesting

Mr Savage told the WRC he was availing of a service available to the public and manifesting his beliefs as an evangelical Christian and chief elder of the Church of Swords Castle. He claimed he was upset and humiliated at the discrimination when staff repeatedly removed the material.

SuperValu said it would not allow Mr Savage to use the board as a platform for posting offensive and defamatory material. It noted he had previously posted notices accusing two 2019 local election candidates of being child sex offenders.

The company said Mr Savage had caused anxiety, offence and upset to its staff by shouting at them, taking photographs of an employee and threatening that taking down his notices would cost them their jobs. The WRC heard that SuperValu had revoked his right to attend its Swords outlet due to his conduct.

SuperValu said Mr Savage had e-mailed one staff member on August 10th, 2020 to say he would protest outside Swords Pavillions Shopping Centre with offensive placards stating named staff members were child sex offenders.

The company said Mr Savage’s placement of a further notice on its noticeboard on August 21st last, which made similar allegations against two named employees, was now a Garda matter.

It said it appeared Mr Savage was inviting SuperValu to remove the notices in order to issue fresh discrimination proceedings against it. SuperValu claimed it was manifestly unfair that the company and its employees should have to defend such vexatious and frivolous claims.

‘Premeditated’

Mr Brady said Mr Savage did not give the slightest indication of having any insight into the gravity of his claims but confirmed that he considers the language used justified in the case of people who display conduct that he disapproves of.

The WRC said the complainant knew exactly what the consequences of posting the notices would be because of previous incidents. Mr Brady said defamatory, obscene and discriminatory material cannot be considered to be a protected expression of religious belief.

It ruled the actions taken by SuperValu were entirely correct and well justified for dealing with what was a “premeditated act of provocation”.