Jamie Grierson — The Guardian Oct 27, 2017
A devout Christian who was thrown off a university social work course after branding homosexuality a sin on Facebook has lost a high court battle.
Felix Ngole, from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, was removed from a two-year MA course at Sheffield University in February last year after writing what the university called “derogatory” comments about gay and bisexual people.
Ngole, 39, wrote during a debate on Facebook that “the Bible and God identify homosexuality as a sin”, adding that “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.”
He claimed that he was lawfully expressing a traditional Christian view and complained that university bosses unfairly stopped him completing a postgraduate degree. But after analysing rival claims at a trial in London this month, the deputy high court judge, Rowena Collins Rice, ruled against him.
Ngole said his rights to freedom of speech and thought, enshrined in the European convention on human rights, had been breached. His case was backed by the Christian Legal Centre, part of the campaign group Christian Concern.
But lawyers representing the university argued that he showed “no insight” and said the decision to remove him from the course was fair and proportionate.
They said Ngole had been studying for a professional qualification and university bosses had to consider his “fitness to practise”.
Ngole said he planned to appeal further, adding: “I am very disappointed by this ruling, which supports the university’s decision to bar me from my chosen career because of my Biblical views on sexual ethics.
“I intend to appeal this decision, which clearly intends to restrict me from expressing my Christian faith in public.”
The judge was told Ngole had posted comments during a debate about Kim Davis, a state official in the US state of Kentucky, who refused to register same-sex marriages. Ngole said he had argued that Davis’s position was based on the “Biblical view of same-sex marriage as a sin”. He said he was making a “genuine contribution” to an important public debate and was entitled to express his religious views.
University bosses said he had posted comments on a publicly accessible Facebook page which were “derogatory of gay men and bisexuals”.
Collins Rice said: “Public religious speech has to be looked at in a regulated context from the perspective of a public readership. Social workers have considerable power over the lives of vulnerable service users and trust is a precious professional commodity.”
The judge added: “Universities also have a wide range of interests in and responsibilities for their students – academic, social and pastoral. Where, as Sheffield does, they aspire to be welcoming environments for students from a diverse range of backgrounds, they must expect to be inclusive and supportive of that diversity.”
Officials at the Christian Legal Centre said the decision was wrong and would have a “chilling” effect.
Andrea Williams, the chief executive, said: “The court has ruled that though Mr Ngole is entitled to hold his Biblical views on sexual ethics, he is not entitled to express them. This ruling will have a chilling effect on Christian students up and down the country who will now understand that their personal social media posts may be investigated for political correctness.”