A Christian student who expressed support for biblical marriage on Facebook has lost his legal appeal after a High Court ruling determined Sheffield University has acted lawfully in expelling him.
Devout Christian Felix Ngole was thrown off a social work postgraduate degree course after posting comments on Facebook in support of the biblical definition of marriage that the university deemed “derogatory”.
In 2015, Mr. Ngole posted comments on a social media thread related to Kim Davis, the Christian Kentucky state official who refused to register same-sex marriages, arguing that Davis’s position was based on the “Biblical view of same-sex marriage as a sin”, adding: “Same-sex marriage is a sin whether we like it or not. It is God’s words and man’s sentiments would not change His words.”
Two months later, he received an email from university administrators advising him that his comments were being investigated. He was later interviewed by the university’s investigatory team and was removed from his course by a panel who deemed his comments, “derogatory of gay men and bisexuals”.
The married 39-year-old then sought legal support from the Christian Legal Centre, part of the campaign group Christian Concern, to have Sheffield University’s decision overturned.
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Arguing in court that his rights to freedom of speech had been breached and that he was merely expressing common Christian biblical views, lawyers representing the university said he had shown “no insight” and that Sheffield University had to consider his “fitness to practice” in social work.
The court heard that the university “investigatory team accepted that Felix was fully entitled to his religious beliefs, and had acted with honesty and integrity”. They said that it was not Felix’s views that were at issue, but his public posting of these views which could cause “damage” as they “may have caused offence to some individuals”.
On Friday, Judge Rowena Collins Rice ruled against Mr. Ngole, saying that the university was acting lawfully when it expelled him, reports The Star.
“Public religious speech has to be looked at in a regulated context from the perspective of a public readership,” said Judge Collins Rice.
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“It was how [these comments] could be accessed and read by people who would perceive them as judgemental, incompatible with service ethos, or suggestive of discriminatory intent. That was a problem in its own right…
“But whatever the actual intention was, it was the perception of the posting that would cause the damage. It was reasonable to be concerned about that perception.”
Following the decision, Mr. Ngole said he was “very disappointed” and intends to appeal.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Rulings like this show that society is becoming increasingly intolerant of Christian moral values. Christians are being told to shut up and keep quiet about their moral views or face a bar from employment.
“Unless the views you express are politically correct, you may be barred from office. This is very far from how a free and fair society should operate.
“No democratic society can function without freedom of expression. This ruling shakes the foundations of freedom in our society.”