Latest News of Significant Individual Cases

The latest issue of Affinity's Social Issues Bulletin is out now. It is free to download (as are all previous editions). In one of the current articles we have a summary of a number of current legal cases involving Christians:

The following are summaries of the story so far in some of the significant recently-resolved or still unresolved cases involving Christians responding to a wide range of legal, police or disciplinary action against them. Seeking a remedy by means of litigation can be a lengthy process – sometimes taking several years for a closure to be reached. All cases mentioned are being handled by the Christian Legal Centre.

 

Dr David Makereth: Doctor’s foundational Bible belief ruled “incompatible with human dignity”
 

An experienced Christian doctor who was forced out of his job working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after refusing to use transgender pronouns has lost his Employment Tribunal case. The tribunal ruled that his belief in the biblical view of what it is to be male and female was “incompatible with human dignity”.

The judgment will have serious ramifications for Christian professionals and indeed all medical professionals, as the judgment dictates the language that professionals must use in the workplace. The judgment is also contrary to scientific reality and is likely to undermine freedom of speech in the workplace.

Sacked for refusing to use transgender pronouns

In July 2019, Dr David Mackereth, 56, a doctor for 26 years in the NHS, challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at Birmingham Employment Tribunal after he was sacked from his job for refusing to identify clients by their chosen gender instead of their biological sex.

Counsel representing Dr Mackereth, Christian Legal Centre’s Michael Phillips, argued that the DWP discriminated against him because of his Christian beliefs, including: “His belief in the truth of the Bible, and in particular, the truth of Genesis 1:27: ‘So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ It follows that every person is created by God as either male or female. A person cannot change their sex/gender at will. Any attempt at, or pretence of, doing so, is pointless, self-destructive, and sinful.”

The DWP’s case against Dr Mackereth, however, claimed that his belief in Genesis 1:27 was not a belief protected by the Equality Act 2010 and was a “mere opinion”.

Foundational Christian beliefs not “worthy of respect”

In the judgment, to be published this week, Judge Perry puts “transgender rights” ahead of Christian freedoms and in effect forces Christians to use compelled speech in order to not offend those who believe in gender-fluidity.

The judge found that Dr Mackereth “holds to the principles of the Great Reformation of the 16th Century including a commitment to the supremacy of the Bible as the infallible, inerrant word of God as his final authority in all matters of faith and practice.” That includes his belief in the truth of Genesis 1:27, and the logical consequence: scepticism about transgenderism and refusal to use transgender pronouns.

The judge ruled that “belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals” (para 197, emphasis added). He continued that “in so far as those beliefs form part of his wider faith, his wider faith also does not satisfy the requirement of being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others” (para 232).

In the Bible, Genesis 1:27 establishes the foundational doctrine that human beings are made, male and female, in the image of God and therefore of great value and dignity. The teaching is foundational to Judeo-Christian thought and was highly influential in political history as concepts of tolerance and human rights were first developed.

The ruling will have profound ramifications, excluding foundational Christian beliefs from the protection of human rights and anti-discrimination law. The ruling puts a belief in the Bible on a par with racist and neo-Nazi ideologies which have been held “not worthy of respect in democratic society” in earlier court decisions.

“Would you call a six-foot bearded man, madam?”

At proceedings in July, giving evidence, Dr Mackereth had said that he was asked in a conversation with his line manager: “If you have a man, six-foot-tall with a beard, who says he wants to be addressed as ‘she’ and ‘Mrs’, would you do that?” Dr Mackereth, who now works as an NHS emergency doctor in Shropshire, said that in good conscience he could not do this and said that his contract was subsequently terminated over his refusal.

He told the tribunal he was suspended the following month after being “interrogated” by his boss, James Owen, for refusing to “call any six-foot-tall bearded man ‘madam’ on his whim”. The medic claims he was told he was “overwhelmingly likely” to lose his job unless he agreed. Dr Mackereth left his role on 25 June 2018, after an email exchange with Mr Owen in which he was instructed to follow the “process as discussed in your training”. The email read: “If however, you do not want to do this, we will respect your decision and your right to leave your contract”. Dr Mackereth replied: “I am a Christian and in good conscience cannot do what the DWP is requiring of me.”

“Freedom of speech has died in this country”

Dr Mackereth gave evidence that he did not resign his position and was the victim of direct discrimination and harassment. He argued that he was dismissed “not because of any realistic concerns over the rights and sensitivities of transgender individuals, but because of my refusal to make an abstract ideological pledge”. Responding to the judge’s ruling, Dr Mackereth said:

I am not alone in being deeply concerned by this outcome. Staff in the NHS, even those who do not share my Christian convictions, are also disturbed as they see their own freedom of thought and speech being undermined by the judges’ ruling. No doctor, or researcher, or philosopher, can demonstrate or prove that a person can change sex. Without intellectual and moral integrity, medicine cannot function and my 30 years as a doctor are now considered irrelevant compared to the risk that someone else might be offended. I believe that I have to appeal in order to fight for the freedom of Christians – and any other NHS member of staff – to speak the truth. If they cannot, then freedom of speech has died in this country, with serious ramifications for the practice of medicine in the UK.

Compelled speech for first time in English law

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

This is an astonishing judgment and one that if upheld will have seismic consequences not just for the NHS and for Christians, but anyone in the work place who is prepared to believe and say that we are created male and female. It is deeply disturbing that this is the first time in the history of English law that a judge has ruled that free citizens must engage in compelled speech. Here Judge Perry has ruled that Christianity is not protected by the Equality Act or the ECHR, unless it is a version of Christianity which recognises transgenderism and rejects a belief in Genesis 1:27.

The teaching of Genesis 1:27 is repeated throughout the Bible, including by Jesus Christ himself. It is fundamental to establishing the dignity of every human person but is, in a bizarre ironic twist, being branded as incompatible with that dignity. No protection is given to beliefs “incompatible with human dignity” and “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. In the past this definition has only applied to the most extreme beliefs, such as those of Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis, and similar. It is quite shocking for the judge to put the belief in the Bible in the same category now.

This is one of the most concerning rulings we have ever seen at the Centre and we are determined to continue to fight for justice in this case, not just for Dr Mackereth and Bible-believing Christians, but for everyone who believes that we are born male and female. People who suffer from gender dysphoria must be treated lovingly, but not telling the truth to these vulnerable people is unloving. Men cannot become women nor can women become men.

Dr Mackereth is currently awaiting permission from the Employment Appeal Tribunal to appeal the decision of the Employment Tribunal. A decision is expected within the next two weeks.

 

Seyi Omooba: Actress sues theatre and agency after being sacked for citing Bible on Facebook four years ago

A Christian West End actress who was removed from a lead role in a musical for a four-year-old Facebook post that cited the Bible, is set to take a theatre and her agency to court for breach of contract and for anti-Christian discrimination. The case, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, raises the question of whether Bible-believing Christians have the freedom to hold and express mainstream biblical views in public, without fear of losing their livelihoods. It also raises the issue of whether, as a society, we are allowed to hold and express opinions and interpretations of art, literature and drama in ways that are contrary to LGBT ideology.

 
Given lead role in The Color Purple

On 14 March 2019, Miss Seyi Omooba, 25, from East London, had been given a lead role as Celie in Leicester Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s co-production of the award-winning musical The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker’s classic American novel. The casting was announced the same day that Miss Omooba went with her father, Pastor Ade Omooba, an eminent international Christian campaigner and Christian Concern’s co-founder, to Buckingham Palace to receive his MBE.

Miss Omooba had developed her raw talent from a young age singing gospel in church and studying performing arts at Anglia Ruskin University. She had already built up a portfolio of performances, among them parts in Hadestown at the National Theatre, Little Shop of Horrors, Spring Awakening, and had played the role of Nettie in the Cadogan Hall production of The Color Purple.

In a review of her full debut in the West End musical, Ragtime, Miss Omooba was described as: “jaw-droppingly good, and her ferocious gospel vocals… pin you to your seat. This is her professional debut, and she’s someone to watch.” In the production of A Color Purple at Cadogan Hall, Miss Omooba’s depiction of the character of Nettie was described as capturing the “very heart of her character”.

 
Facebook post from 2014

After the cast was announced, however, on 15 March Miss Omooba was tagged on Twitter by another West End performer, Aaron Lee Lambert , who is not known to her. With a screenshot of a Facebook post that Miss Omooba had posted four-and-half-years ago on 18 September 2014, Mr Lambert wrote:

@seyiomooba Do you still stand by this post? Or are you happy to remain a hypocrite? Seeing as you’ve now been announced to be playing an LGBTQ character, I think you owe your LGBTQ peers an explanation. Immediately.

In September 2014, Miss Omooba was a 20-year-old student whose acting career had not even started. She regularly posts about her faith online without any issue, and in this post had written on her personal Facebook page, in the context of the government introducing same-sex marriage legislation, that:

Some Christians have completely misconceived the issue of Homosexuality, they have begun to twist the word of God. It is clearly evident in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 what the Bible says on this matter. I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexual practice is right, though the law of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean it is right. I do believe that everyone sins and falls into temptation but it’s by the asking of forgiveness, repentance and the grace of God that we overcome and live how God ordained us to. Which is that a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24. God loves everyone, just because He doesn’t agree with your decisions doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. Christians we need to step up and love but also tell the truth of God’s word. I am tired of lukewarm Christianity, be inspired to stand up for what you believe and the truth #our God is three in one #God (Father) #Jesus Christ (Son) #Holy Spirit.

Miss Omooba received the tweet from Mr Lambert while supporting a grieving friend, and despite being deeply shocked and intimidated, refused to be drawn into an online discussion on the issue.

Called a nigger for citing the Bible

Calls for Miss Omooba to be removed from the cast followed, however, as well as online abuse which included her being called a “nigger”. Miss Omooba, who visibly prays before each show and wears a “Not Ashamed” of the gospel wristband, had accepted the lead role over Celie after originally auditioning for the character of Nettie, and disagrees with the interpretation that Celie is a lesbian character. The character of Celie in The Color Purple has intrigued readers and critics since it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 after its publication the previous year. Set in the Deep South of the US, its main character, Celie, leads a life of immense struggle at the hands of men, until she briefly finds comfort and friendship with another woman. It was made into a Hollywood film in 1985 and starred Whoopi Goldberg, who described the film and the character of Celie as “Not really about feminism, or lesbianism, despite the fact that Celie finds out about love and tenderness from another woman… It has nothing to do with lesbianism. It has to do with, her eyes are opened, now she understands.”

Steven Spielberg, who directed the film, was pressed in 2011 on whether today he would make the “kiss” scene in the film more explicit, but he said: “I wouldn’t, no. That kiss is consistent with the tonality, from beginning to end, of The Color Purple that I adapted.”

On 15 March, Miss Omooba received a call from her agency, Global Artists, telling her that pressure was mounting for her to be removed from the show because of her views. She was told that only through retracting the comments and publicly apologising would she be able to continue under their management, which she refused to do.

Fake news article led to contract termination

Leicester Curve Theatre and the Birmingham Hippodrome then released a statement on 21 March which led to Miss Omooba’s contract being terminated. The theatres claimed in their statement that: “The play and production are seeking to promote freedom and independence and to challenge views, including the view that homosexuality is a sin.”

That same day, Miss Omooba was now told by her agency “not to make public comment at this point”, without informing and consulting them, which Miss Omooba agreed to do. However, on the 24 March, a blogger based in Nigeria published a fake news article on the story which included a fake quote from Ms Omooba made “through her publicist”, saying that homosexuality is an aberration and that she stood by her Facebook post from 2014. The blogger wrote clearly that the article was “clearly satirical and should not to be taken seriously”.

Nonetheless, this article was enough for the agency to send Miss Omooba a brief email telling her that she would now be released from their services, and the news appeared in the media within hours – before Miss Omooba had the opportunity to explain that the article had nothing to do with her, which she was only able to do the following day. Even though Miss Omooba chased the agency for a response, it was not until 18 April that they responded saying their decision was final as their confidence in her had been “irretrievably eroded”. This was despite Miss Omooba being entitled to two months’ notice.

 
Told to abandon entire upbringing

Since then Miss Omooba has tried to find work in the theatre profession but appears to have been blacklisted. One agency she approached for roles even told her, “Homophobia is illegal. It is not a matter of faith” and added that the agency would help her once she “came to her senses on this matter” and when she had “got away from the ideologies of your entire upbringing”.

The theatre has attempted to avert Miss Omooba’s lawsuit by offering to pay her the full wages she would have received for playing in the performance. However, Miss Omooba has rejected that offer, and will ask the Employment Tribunal for a formal and public ruling that the theatre has acted unlawfully and discriminated against her because of her Christian beliefs.

Told to choose between her beliefs or career

Miss Omooba said:

When I received the email that I was going to be dropped from the cast, I was heartbroken. The theatre has offered me a financial settlement, but I am not in this for the money. For me it’s not about the money or my face – it was about telling and expressing Celie’s story, as I interpret it as a performer, because that is what I love to do.

For me, Celie is a complex character. I do not think it is possible to clearly define that she is a “Christian” or a “lesbian”. Celie has to grow up so fast, but in her mind she is just a child trying to navigate through and overcome the many trials and tribulations that life throws at her. The people who know me, know that I have no hatred as a result of my faith; only love. Yet the theatre and the agency gave me the choice of either losing my career or renouncing my faith. I could not do this, not even to save the career that means so much to me.

I want our society to be more open to both sides of the debate and to accept that many Christians do not believe homosexual practice is right. Even though there are differences in belief, we need to be more loving to each other, we need to understand each other’s struggles – that is what my post in September 2014 was all about. No one should be treated as I have been because of expressing these beliefs.

Blacklisted for expressing what the Bible says


Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

What happened to Seyi Omooba was cruel and has damaged the career of a highly talented young artist for a Facebook post she had made four years ago. Here you have a young Christian woman, with what critics have described as having a “ferocious” talent, being sacked and blacklisted for expressing what the Bible says about homosexual practice, the need for forgiveness and God’s love for all humanity. This is another in a string of cases involving Christians being hounded out of their careers because they love Jesus.

The presence of a homosexuality theme in the play is a very poor excuse for discriminating against a Christian actress. If we were talking about a lesbian actress playing a Christian character, nobody would dare to suggest that her sexual lifestyle would make her unsuitable, and that you could fire her without breaking the law. This story sends a chilling message to Christians, not only in the theatre profession but across our society, that if you express and hold mainstream biblical views, you will be punished and will lose your career if you do not immediately renounce your beliefs. This cannot go unchallenged and we are determined to fight for justice in this case.”

Proceedings in this case are listed before the Employment Tribunal to be heard from 30 April-7 May 2020.

 

Kristie Higgs: Christian school worker sacked for sharing concerns about sex education
 

A Christian school worker is to challenge a Gloucestershire school academy’s decision to dismiss her for gross misconduct. She was dismissed after she shared with friends two Facebook posts that raised concerns about Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at another school in the same village – her own child’s Church of England primary school. Kristie Higgs, aged 43, a mother of two children, has been working at the academy – Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire – for the past six years as a pastoral assistant with an exemplary record. Yet, after one anonymous person saw two of Kristie’s personal Facebook posts, which shared concerns about sex education lessons at her own child’s primary school, she was reported to the academy headteacher with a claim that her posts were “homophobic and prejudiced to the LGBT community”. Even though the posts were only visible to her friends, Mrs Higgs was subsequently sacked. Mrs Higgs was told at a hearing that, for holding and sharing her views, she “may exert influence over vulnerable pupils who may end up in isolation” and was therefore deemed no longer suitable to work with children.

 
Two Facebook posts

With reference to her child’s primary school, Kristie Higgs, using her personal Facebook account under her maiden name, had shared two posts. The first began with her writing in capital letters: “Please read this they are brainwashing our children!” “Please sign this petition, they have already started to brainwash our innocent wonderfully created children and it’s happening in our local primary school now.” The rest of the post, written by another mother, highlighted that a government consultation on proposals to make RSE mandatory for children as young as four was coming to a close, and urged its readers to sign a nationwide petition calling on the government to uphold the rights of parents to have children educated in line with their religious beliefs.

The petition, subsequently signed by over 115,000 people, was debated in parliament, ironically under a government protocol for freedom of speech and for fostering closer links between public concerns and parliament in an open democracy. This mother wrote conveying that she felt that some aspects of the proposed RSE syllabus, especially children’s books with transgender themes, were not right for pupils at her own child’s Church of England primary school, and she wanted other parents to be able to make informed decisions. Mrs Higgs shared this in her post.

In the second post, Mrs Higgs shared an article from Judybeth.com on the rise of transgender ideology in children’s books in American schools and added her own comment: “This is happening in our primary schools now”. These posts, sharing with friends her concern for her child’s primary school, were reported to the academy where Mrs Higgs was working. The person who reported it remains anonymous.

 
Investigation and dismissal

After an investigation, the academy concluded that Mrs Higgs would be dismissed for: “illegal discrimination”, “serious inappropriate use of social media”, and “online comments that could bring the school into disrepute and damage the reputation of the school”. However, the conclusions by the academy were unfounded. In the conclusion to Mrs Higgs’ hearing, the academy admitted in writing that: “Regarding bringing the school into disrepute… we agree that there is no direct evidence that as a matter of fact that the reputation of the school has been damaged to date.”

Furthermore, despite the clearly religious context, with one of the Facebook posts specifically mentioning Mrs Higgs’ views on Christian teaching and that “freedom of belief would be destroyed”, the academy claimed: “We concluded that no action was taken because of your religion. The disciplinary occurred for reasons other than your religion.”

The academy added: “As an inclusive employer, Farmor’s school recognises and protects the statutory rights of its staff. Such rights however are not absolute and we are concerned that you did not demonstrate an appropriate understanding of the school’s requirement to respect and tolerate the views of others and to role model such behaviour.” When Mrs Higgs asked whom she had discriminated against, she was told by the academy: “you had not directly discriminated against one person, rather it was about the words you had used that could be perceived as discrimination”.

Legal action

Mrs Higgs, a member of Fairford Christian Fellowship, has been supported by her pastor, Gregory Husband, in this case and has turned to the Christian Legal Centre for help. She is now taking legal action against the academy for unfair dismissal and discrimination. Mrs Higgs said:

I have been punished for sharing concerns about Relationships and Sex Education. I hold these views because of my Christian beliefs, beliefs and views which are shared by hundreds of thousands of parents across the UK. My number one concern has always been the effect that learning about sex and gender in school will have on children at such a young age. As soon as the investigation into the posts began I was repeatedly told: “this is nothing to do with your religion”. That was clearly a legal tactic and of course it has everything to do with my religion. I am determined to fight this case and to stand for Christians and all parents across the country who are being silenced for sharing and holding these views.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

This case is about the freedom to hold Christian views about what it means to be human. Many Christians have faced pressure for expressing these views in the workplace before, but in this case, Kristie has been dismissed for sharing her views among friends on Facebook. What Kristie shared on Facebook simply reflects the genuine and justified concerns of a parent about the sexual ideology currently being imposed on her own children and thousands of children across the UK. Kristie has not only lost her job, but her whole career is now tarnished with the accusation that for holding these views she is now a danger to vulnerable children. This is despite an exemplary record at the school and in her work with youth in the wider community. If Kristie does not win this case, due to one complaint, she will never be able to work with children again.

Kristie’s case has been set down for trial from 21-25 September 2020.

 

Richard Page

In May 2019, former magistrate Richard Page lost his appeal at the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The ruling could effectively bar Christians from holding positions in public office if they express a Christian view of marriage and family. The battle is not over for Richard; he “remains as faithful as ever to his beliefs and will bring his cases to the Court of Appeal”. Andrea Williams comments on the judgments:

Disappointingly, but not unexpectedly, Mr Justice Choudhury of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled against Richard Page in his cases against the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor, and against the Kent and Medway NHS Trust. Richard was first punished in 2014 for saying in an adoption matter that a child does best with a mother and a father and eventually removed from his position as a magistrate. He was later also removed from his position as a Non-Executive Director of the NHS Trust for further expressing his belief in media interviews.

As a nation, we should all be very concerned that these rulings may mark another watershed moment in our nation’s history where holding sincere biblical views can amount to a bar to public office. As Christians, we should do everything in our power to make sure that this is not the case. Richard remains as faithful as ever to his beliefs and will bring his cases to the Court of Appeal.

The real Richard Page

What has perhaps been lost in all of the debate surrounding his cases is the question of who the real Richard Page is. Richard has been supported now by Christian Concern for over five years. We have come to know the man, and his heart, well. While detractors, wishing to score cheap campaigning points, try to paint Richard in a one-dimensional light as merely being a homophobic ex-magistrate; nothing could be further from the truth.

Richard is first and foremost a family man. Beyond raising a wonderful family of his own and being a devoted husband, Richard and his wife Jane took in five hard-to-adopt adolescent foster children over the years. Richard also enjoyed a successful career in finance, the talent for which he brought to the NHS as a Non-Executive Director. He also gave back to the community with more than 15 years of exemplary public service as a magistrate, never having been the subject of negative feedback or complaint prior to the circumstances leading to his removal from the bench. Richard, for all intent and purpose, has been a pillar of society.

When approaching his judgments, I would highlight several points which simply do not withstand scrutiny. In legalese, we would refer to these findings as being made in manifest error.

A difference without a distinction

First, both judgments repeat the mantra that Richard was not being punished for what he believed, but the manner in which he expressed that belief. The notion that the manner in which someone expresses a belief and the right to hold a belief are separable however, simply does not withstand scrutiny. It is a distinction without a difference. It is also not supported by experience; whereby members of the judiciary much more senior than Richard (Lady Hale, the President of the Supreme Court, and Sir James Munby, recently retired President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, for example) have made similarly contentious statements in the media and received no sanction. The only difference among them were their viewpoints. The latter were applauded for their “progressiveness” whereas Richard was punished for daring to suggest that a child does best with a mother and a father. Precisely stated, it had nothing to do with the manner in which he made his comments (as the manner he did so has been shared by many others who were never similarly scrutinised); it had everything to do with the belief itself.

Bias is a two-way street

Similarly, it strains credulity to suggest that Richard brought the independence of the judiciary into question or showed inherent bias any more than did Lady Hale, Sir James, or any number of other prominent judges who have shared their beliefs in a public forum. In fact, the seniority of the other judges I have mentioned, because of their prominent public profiles, had a far greater impact over the public perception of the judiciary than Richard ever could.

Following orders

Third, in relation to the NHS judgment, the EAT repeatedly made note of the fact that by doing media interviews, Richard went against a direct order from the Trust to inform them of any media interview he might do concerning his case. The truth is that Richard participated in exactly one media interview after receiving the directive from the Trust. That interview was set up and profiled as a general discussion on intolerance towards Christians and nothing to do specifically with his case. The issue of Richard not following a directive was a very minor part of the original case which has now been conflated exponentially.

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Finally, recalling that Justice Choudhury did not believe Richard’s right to freedom of religion was engaged because he was punished for how he expressed his belief, and not the belief itself, he nonetheless went on to say that had his faith been involved, he would have come to the same finding because the law allows for interference with a belief where a legitimate aim exists. He suggested that because LGBT people suffer disproportionately from mental illness, that Richard’s comments might somehow dissuade them from using the NHS health service. Apart from the absurdity of suggesting that the beliefs of one man in a Non-Executive Directorship would dissuade anyone from seeking medical assistance, the point is also wrong in law.

For the NHS to interfere with Richard’s freedom of religion and belief, it requires much more than merely suggesting that a legitimate aim exists to do so. Proportionality and necessity are also required. There were much more tailored means that the trust could have utilised to both engage with the patients they say were particularly vulnerable and allow Richard to enjoy his fundamental freedoms of belief and expression. For example, if the trust was concerned, it could have issued a public statement to achieve this balance, reiterating that Richard was speaking in a private capacity and that his opinions were not necessarily shared by the trust and more so, that his position in the trust was wholly separate from any decisions made in relation to patient care.

Best interests of the child standard

What has also been missed in Richard’s case is that as a magistrate in the family division, he was doing exactly what he should have been doing. The law requires the family court, in an adoption matter, to serve the best interests of the child. Far from being just a Christian belief, Richard understood that the unique and complementary gifts brought to parenting by a mother and a father is also a fact supported by sociology, psychology and biology. This belief had nothing to do with same-sex couples, and everything to do with what is best for a child. While Richard would never judge anyone for who they are or for their personal circumstances – single parent, same-sex parent, or otherwise – he would nevertheless always endeavour to fulfil his judicial oath by doing what he believed was in the best interests of the child being adopted.

As I have said in the past and will repeat here, we should be grateful for Christians like Richard Page who bravely and dutifully stands in the firing lines so that hopefully you will never have to. Richard has now been given permission to appeal the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The cases against the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice, and the NHS have now been joined and will be heard together at the Court of Appeal.

 

Christian Hacking: Civil disobedience part of Christian history

Christian Hacking, 29 and wheelchair-bound after breaking his back in a climbing accident, was arrested by police in August 2019 when they determined that he was violating a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) by praying outside a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing. He was prosecuted for the offence, but charges were dropped because there was not “enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”.

The PSPO had been issued by the local council against certain forms of protest within 100 meters of the clinic. His arrest has sparked much debate about whether it was spiritually or morally appropriate for Christian to be praying in a place where it was unlawful for him to do so. After all, Scripture is replete with verses about obeying earthly authority. Titus 3:1, for example, implores believers to “be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…” However simple the question may appear on the surface, the answer of whether Christian Hacking was wrong to disobey the law is far more nuanced than one might think. Let’s take the question from several perspectives:

The legal view

Granted, the Ealing PSPO is quite clear that praying is among the enumerated activities disallowed within 100 meters of the Marie Stopes clinic. From a legal perspective, however, that is not the end of the story.

Through the Human Rights Act 1998, the United Kingdom has transposed articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights into our domestic law. Article 9 protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion; including the right to pray publicly and to otherwise manifest your religion. Article 10 protects public protest and freedom of expression. While both rights are subject to certain limitations, they are nonetheless considered fundamental legal rights. Any interference with the right to publicly pray, according to the settled case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, must be necessary in a democratic society and proportionately tailored to serving a legitimate aim. Any such restriction must be reviewed by the court with the strictest level of scrutiny. Opposition to abortion is also a protected right under the Convention, as is the right to manifest that belief.

Precisely stated, the question of whether Christian violated the law is not black and white and includes a clash between laws; one prohibiting prayer in front of an abortion clinic and one prescribing prayer and opposition to abortion as protected legal rights. The question of whether the PSPO is violative of the European Convention is still being worked out before the courts and could ultimately end up before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). My opinion, as a long-time veteran of ECHR litigation, is that the European Court may very well find that the PSPO disproportionately limits the rights of those wishing to protest abortion and is therefore in breach of Articles 9 and 10 of the Convention.

Let’s now turn to the greater moral question of Christian’s actions.

Civil disobedience

Christians who are uncomfortable with Christian Hacking publicly praying in violation of the Ealing PSPO can take heart in the fact that Christian was merely partaking in an activity which our forebears did often, at great risk to their own lives, when Christianity was still illegal in the Roman Empire. We celebrate our early Christian martyrs precisely because their faith and love of God was greater than their fear of any unjust law. Those Christians also had a wealth of precedent, including Daniel’s refusal to bow down and worship King Neb-uchadnezzar’s golden statue in Daniel 3. In fact, had the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah not disobeyed a direct order by Pharaoh to kill all of the male born Hebrew children being born at the time, Moses would have been a casualty of infanticide and salvation history would look a whole lot different than it does today.

Even in secular terms, we must ask what would the world look like right now without the likes of Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa and Dietrich Bonhoeffer? History proves that hearts and minds were changed en masse because of exemplary acts civil disobedience. Now of course, not all acts of civil obedience are equal, and some are in fact unhelpful.

Praying for the unborn child

It is therefore important to evaluate what is at stake. Here is the reality. From the moment of conception, the human person has all of the genetic information necessary for his or her development. That unborn child is a growing human person. Being in the womb is as much a part of human life as childhood, adolescence or adulthood. Abortion ends human life. In fact, since the Abortion Act 1967 came into effect, it has ended more than 9 million lives. The Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing is responsible for thousands of abortions a year.

Prayer is the key that opens the door of darkness to the light. Given the reality of what is happening in Ealing, I would suggest that not only is prayer appropriate in front of abortion clinics, it is necessary!

There is one very damning thing to be said about those who demand us to follow even the most unjust laws. If we were to believe such to be true, then the Nuremburg laws emboldening anti-Semitism and leading to the creation of Nazi death camps were to be followed, and the Nuremburg trials which punished concentration camp guards who simply “followed the law” would be wrong.

I tip my hat to Christian Hacking. When confronted with modern Britain’s gravest sin, he did what we all should do: he prayed boldly. While some might disagree with him doing so in breach of a PSPO, I would hope that you would nonetheless appreciate the faith with which he acted. May his actions quicken the end of the culture of death in the United Kingdom. Christian says:

My Christian faith calls me to defend the voiceless and what more peaceful way can I achieve this than through prayer. If abortion providers don’t want me praying outside their clinic they should buy the land and ring fence it, not arrest people for doing what they don’t like on public property.

 

Keith Waters: Pastor receives death threat for tweet about Pride

A Christian pastor and school caretaker who received a death threat for tweeting a warning to Christians that Pride events are harmful to children, is now taking legal action against the school for hounding him out of his job and capitulating to LGBT activism. The case raises the question of how far the LGBT community are prepared to go to silence mainstream Christian beliefs.

Pride not aligned with biblical teaching

On 1 June 2019, Pastor Keith Waters posted to Christians on Twitter, warning them to steer clear of Pride events that month. He stated simply: “A reminder that Christians should not attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children”. Keith had copied the tweet from a US Catholic Bishop. He said his intention was to address Christians about gay pride events across the UK, as they often involve nudity, people in sadomasochistic outfits and displays of an overtly sexual nature.

Harassed for tweeting

Within minutes of posting the tweet, Keith received a response from a local journalist and LGBT activist accusing him of attacking the local LGBT community in Ely ahead of Pride events that month. The following morning, as Keith was preparing for a Sunday service at his church, a Cambridge based journalist arrived, harassing him and pressuring him to apologise for the tweet, which Keith refused to do. By Monday, just two days later, he was on the front page of the Cambridge Evening News, and online abuse continued to grow.

Harassment followed at his home and on the streets of Ely. On one occasion, his wife answered the door to funeral directors who had been sent to “arrange his funeral”. Estate agents also contacted him, having been told he was moving from the area “in a hurry”, and he was at one point nearly knocked off his bike by an angry local resident in her car who wanted to remonstrate with him. False rumours were also spread that he was a child molester and there were calls from local councillors for Keith to be investigated by police for a “hate incident”. Fearing for his, his family’s and his congregation’s safety, Keith decided to delete the tweet.

School investigation

Following on from this abuse and harassment, his caretaker role at the local primary school now came under threat as he was told he was being investigated for “bringing the school into disrepute”. One letter sent to the school claimed that Keith’s tweet had called for “violence against people who support the Ely Pride Festival” and an anonymous teacher claimed that his tweet fell “within the British government’s definition of extremism” so action needed to be taken against him.

“An asset to the school”

Three years ago, Keith took a 60% pay cut from his role as an Estates Manager at one of Cambridge University’s largest colleges to work as a caretaker at the Isle of Ely Primary School. He took the job with the agreement that he would combine the role with his duties as Pastor of Ely’s New Connexions Church.

As a liked and respected member of staff, in his final appraisal he was described as “an asset to the school”. Keith also went above and beyond his duties as caretaker, drawing on his expertise to put in place fire safety regulations, and organising gardening lessons for troubled pupils who were physically threatening teachers.

Headteacher capitulated to LGBT mob rule

During the investigation, however, the school’s headteacher caved in to a number of demands from a handful of LGBT activists, including some parents, and Keith was issued with a final warning for allegedly bringing the school into disrepute and breaking the school’s code of conduct. As a result, Keith believed he could no longer combine his roles as pastor of his church and caretaker of the school, and decided there was no alternative but to resign. Now, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Keith is suing for constructive dismissal, indirect discrimination and breach of public sector equality duty. He also believes that the school has interfered with his rights to freedom of religion, expression and thought.

“An attack on anyone who dares question Pride”

Keith commented: 

Anyone who believes in freedom of religion and expression should be very concerned about my story. This was an attack, not just against my Christian beliefs, but against anyone who dares to question these matters in public. The biggest concern should be that a story like mine is becoming normal. I maintain that my tweet did not discriminate against anyone. It was directed to Christians and it did not criticise individuals or the LGBT community, only Pride events. Other people have been mortified at how I have been treated but are too fearful to speak out. Children should never be exposed to nudity or sexual acts, whether that’s at Gay Pride or anywhere else. I am determined to fight for the freedom to say that, and believe that no one should lose or be forced out of their job for holding and expressing legitimate views.

“We are living in very dangerous times”

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

Our schools and churches need more community-minded people like Pastor Keith Waters, not less. For sending one tweet, that raised genuine concern for children, Keith has been threatened, harassed and hounded out of his employment. This is not a local issue distinct to Ely, but a growing intolerant and threatening trend towards, not just Christians, but anyone across the country who dares to oppose Pride. 

Pastor Keith Waters is right to say that Christians should not attend gay Pride events as they are harmful to children. They often exhibit nudity and explicit displays of an overtly sexual nature that no child should have to see. If a Christian pastor can no longer say this publicly without receiving death threats, then we are living in very dangerous times. As we launch this case, we call on the Church to do more to protect courageous Christians like Keith Waters, and to speak publicly on how God’s good pattern of marriage between one man and one woman is a foundation for a healthy society. Celebrating sexual chaos and public immorality at gay Pride events is not good for anyone; it is not good for families or impressionable young children.

Keith’s case has been accepted by the Employment Tribunal and he is currently awaiting a date for his hearing.


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