Opposition to critical race theory amounted to a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010

by Andra Stanton

6 October 2023

In Corby v Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service ET/1805305/2022, an Employment Tribunal considered whether the Claimant’s opposition to critical race theory (the Belief, see footnote) could amount to a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA). If so, the EqA would protect Mr Corby against discrimination on grounds of the Belief.

Mr Corby described his race as white. Throughout his life, he spent large amounts of time with black people and formed close relationships with them. Mr Corby read widely about race and discrimination and had thought carefully about it. He believed that the critical theory approach was misconceived because it sees white people as a problem and can result in segregation. He believed that the better approach was that of Martin Luther King, which desires a society where people are judged by their character rather than the colour of their skin.

In order for a belief to be granted protection under the EqA, it needs to satisfy the five step test set out in the case of Grainger plc v Nicholson. How did Mr Corby’s Belief do?

Steps 1 and 3: Was the Belief genuinely held and did it relate to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour? The Tribunal had no hesitation in finding that the Belief satisfied these steps.

Step 2: Was the Belief more than an opinion or viewpoint ? Yes, held the Tribunal, who found that the Belief was deeply held, carefully considered and affected the way Mr Corby lived his life such that it was more than a mere opinion.

Step 4: Did the Belief attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance? Yes, held the Tribunal who considered Mr Corby’s Belief to have been consistent, logical and structured, and therefore cogent and coherent.

Step 5: Was the Belief worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others? Yes, held the Tribunal who found that the Belief related to the best way of eliminating racism in society which is clearly worthy of respect.

Having passed all five stages of the Grainger test, the Tribunal held that Mr Corby’s Belief was capable of protection under the EqA.

N.B. The critical race theory is a set of ideas holding that racial bias is inherent in many parts of the western society on the basis of their having been primarily designed for and implemented by white people.



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