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discrimination case Man loses rights case after shop took down ‘gay pervert’ notices aimed at politician

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

The Workplace Relations Commission 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”.

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

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

Mr Savage told the WRC that he was availing of a service available to the public and manifesting his religious beliefs as an evangelical Christian and chief elder of the Church of Swords Castle.

Mr Savage claimed he was upset and humiliated at the discrimination when staff repeatedly removed material when he was acting with reasonable excuse and lawful authority at all times and exercising his religious beliefs.

The WRC heard Mr Savage had submitted two similar complaints about SuperValu in 2018 when it previously refused to allow him to place notices in the store.

SuperValu said it would not allow Mr Savage to use the supermarket as a platform for posting discriminatory, offensive, inflammatory and defamatory material, and has barred him from its Swords outlet.

It noted he had also posted notices which accused two candidates during a local election campaign in November 2019 of being child sex offenders; he upset staff by shouting at them and taking photos of them, telling them they would lose their jobs, and also emailed threatening he would protest outside, naming staff as child sex offenders.

The company said Mr Savage’s placement of a further notice on its noticeboard on August 21 last year 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 the company.

In its ruling, the WRC said Mr Savage’s notice was “a homophobic slur” and untrue.

WRC adjudicator Pat Brady said the complainant knew the consequences of posting the notices because of previous incidents, and said defamatory, obscene, abusive and discriminatory material cannot be considered a protected expression of religious belief.

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It ruled the actions of SuperValu were entirely justified for dealing with “a studied, premeditated act of provocation”.

Mr Savage has also previously made unsuccessful religious discrimination claims, including against Google and former health minister James Reilly.

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