A devout Christian and a Nigerian living in UK who lost her job after refusing to work on Sunday is mounting a fresh court appeal this week.

Celestina Mba, 58, lost a previous case after a judge ruled that not all Christians observed the Sabbath as religious.

But she is now taking her case to the Court of Appeal and if successful could establish the right of Christians to refuse to work on a Sunday.

Mba, a children’s care worker, will argue that every employer has a duty to ‘reasonably accommodate’ religious beliefs in the workplace.

The legal challenge comes after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Britain had failed to protect the freedom of Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee who was suspended after refusing to remove a cross at work.

Mba’s lawyer, Paul Diamond, is expected to argue that the ruling in Eweida’s favour extends to religious days as well as items of clothing.

Under the new ruling the baptist mother-of-three only has to prove that she herself holds the belief, not that it is a general rule which all Christians observe.

Shopworkers are already guaranteed the right to refuse to work Sundays, but other businesses must prove a legitimate need to force people to work.

If the court rules in Mba’s favour it could also grant Muslims the right to take Friday off, and Jews to be excused on Friday and Saturday.


Mba, who now has a new job in south west London which allows her to take Sundays off, quit her previous job in 2010 after a row broke out.

Between 2007 when she was first employed and 2008 Mba claims her employers, Brightwell children’s home, were happy to accommodate her request after she mentioned it at her interview.

However in 2008 she was told she would have to work, and began getting other staff members to cover for her, until she was called to a disciplinary hearing in 2010 after which she left.

During the case she said: ‘I was willing to work at any unsocial time of shift in order to preserve my Sundays, I was prepared to work nights, or Saturdays.’

She argued that she doesn’t just go to church on Sundays, but spends the whole day caring for vulnerable people in her community as part of her church’s ministerial team.

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The order to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy is the fourth of the ten commandments.

John Deegan, Mba’s manager who also gave evidence at the time, told the tribunal he did not believe she had specified she could not work Sundays.

Christian campaigners hope this week’s case could provide a welcome victory for a faith they feel has been overlooked when it comes to sensitive issues.


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