Just days before Christmas, the Rev. Francis Cooke, 46, a chaplain at Bentley, the luxury car company, was laid off from his position as a faith leader and counselor. A local plant, which allowed the Christian pastor to counsel and speak with staffers for the past decade, purportedly told Cooke that his continued presence might offend non-Christians.
Cooke, who is dismissing the decision to let him go as “ridiculous,” was allegedly told that there were too many religions represented at the company to allow his presence to continue. Prior to being axed, he would regularly visit a factory in Crewe, Cheshire (England), one day per week for six hours. Additionally, he wrote a message for the company’s newsletter and ran a Christian course.
“It is just beyond belief,” the faith leader said of his dismissal. “The reason I have been given is that there are too many people of different faiths to warrant a Christian chaplain.”
Cooke noted that there have been no complaints against him and that his position was intended to help all individuals working at the location, not only Christians. He cited helping people in need of counseling — something that he cited as beyond the realm of faith and religion.
Rather than serving as a volunteer as some chaplains traditionally do, Cooke was paid directly by the company, with funds being sent to the Diocese of Chester in the United Kingdom and then doled out to him. Despite other roles, the faith leader claims that this was his only paid job — making the pre-Christmas dismissal that much more painful.
And while Bentley cited staff fears in offending non-Christians, it seems some workers have assembled in the wake of Cooke’s dismissal in a concerted effort to bring the chaplain back. However, the company appears to be doubling down on its stance.
According to the Daily Mail, a Bentley Motors spokesperson called the decision to let Cooke go an opportunity to reassess the diverse faith needs and views of those working at the company.
“We have a wide range of faiths and want to take a multi-faith outlook. It would be very difficult to have somebody from each faith,” the spokesman said. “This now gives us the opportunity to look at this and recognize the range of faiths we have here.”
(H/T: Daily Mail)