Review of minister's decision: AGC appeals

Review of minister's decision: AGC appeals
The Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) building at 3 Marine Parade Central.

The Attorney-General is appealing against a High Court decision last week giving Faith Community Baptist Church the green light to challenge the Manpower Minister's order that it compensate a pregnant employee whom it had dismissed.

The administrative worker had complained to the Manpower Ministry after she was sacked by the church in September 2012 on grounds that she committed adultery and refused to repent.

Under employment laws, if a pregnant employee is fired within six months of her estimated date of delivery "without sufficient cause", her employer can be ordered to compensate her.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin decided she was sacked "without sufficient cause" and ordered the church to pay the woman her salary and maternity benefits of about $7,000.

The church - one of Singapore's largest with a congregation of 10,000 - paid her but sought a judicial review of Mr Tan's decision, which it contends was a contravention of the Constitution.

A person can apply to the High Court for judicial review to evaluate the decisions of public authorities. Before the review can be heard, the party mounting the challenge must get leave - or permission - from the court.

Last week, Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy gave the church permission to apply for judicial review.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) confirmed to The Straits Times that it was appealing against the decision.

If its appeal is successful, the church's challenge of Mr Tan's decision will come to a halt.

The former employee of the church had a relationship with a divorced male colleague before her own divorce was finalised.

The church, represented by lawyers Daniel Goh, Adrian Wee and Dominic Chan, is invoking Article 15(3) of the Constitution which states that "every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs". It contends the dismissal of the administrative worker, whose sexual misconduct is contrary to its teachings, is a religious affair and, therefore, is protected by the Constitution.

The Attorney-General took the position that the dismissal of an employee, who was not a member of the clergy, is not a religious affair. A chambers hearing has been set for next Wednesday to hear the AGC's application for leave to file an appeal.

This article was first published on June 06, 2014.
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