A student at a prominent university in the United Kingdom who was expelled over comments that he made on Facebook outlining the biblical stance on homosexuality has lost his appeal before the Royal Courts of Justice.
While Judge Rowena Collins-Rice found that the “right to express the content of deeply held religious views deserves respect in a democratic and plural society,” she said that the matter came down to “how [the student’s comments] could be accessed and read by people who would perceive them as judgmental, incompatible with service ethos, or suggestive of discriminatory intent.”
“That was a problem in its own right,” she wrote. “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.”
In September 2015, Felix Ngole, 39, checked his Facebook account and saw a news story in his feed regarding Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who had gone to prison for declining to personally sign same-sex “marriage” certificates.
As a number of commenters were speaking against Davis, Ngole decided to chime in and note that “the Bible and God identify homosexuality as a sin.” When he was asked where the Scriptures state that homosexuality is sinful, he provided the citations, including the biblical law in Leviticus.
However, nearly two months later, Ngole’s remarks were brought to the attention of administrators at the University of Sheffield, which touts itself as a “world top-100 university and number one in the U.K. for student satisfaction in the 2014-15 Times Higher Student Experience Survey.”
Ngole, who was a second-year Master’s student studying to be a social worker, then became the subject of a “Fitness to Practice” hearing, as he was advised that he “may have caused offense to some individuals” and had “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social work profession.”
Following additional meetings, the Sheffield committee concluded that Ngole’s beliefs would negatively affect his “ability to carry out a role as a social worker,” and was consequently advised that he was “excluded from further study on a program leading to a professional qualification.” The school recently informed Ngole that he is “no longer recognized as a university student.”
“Your student record will be terminated shortly and your library membership and university computer account withdrawn. You may wish to contact your funding body for advice on your financial position,” it wrote.
Ngole appealed the decision, but last April, he received a letter from the appeals office at the University of Sheffield stating that his post was “inappropriate” in light of the professional conduct standards outlined in the Health and Care Professions Councils (HCPC).
It was additionally asserted that Ngole had not “offered any insight or reflection” on the “potential impact” that his comments might have had on his Facebook friends, or how it would reflect on the social work profession.
With the assistance of the Christian Legal Centre, Ngole took the matter to the Royal Courts of Justice. However, while finding the university’s punishment of Ngole to be “indeed severe,” Judge Collins-Rice agreed on Friday that his words could negatively affect his social work.
“Public religious speech has to be looked at in a regulated context from the perspective of a public readership,” she wrote. “Social workers have considerable power over the lives of vulnerable service users and trust is a precious professional commodity.”
The Christian Legal Centre has expressed concern over the ruling, opining that while homosexuals are coming out the closet, Christians are being shoved into it.
“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,” Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement. “This is very far from how a free and fair society should operate.”
Ngole plans to appeal.
“My passion is to love everyone regardless of their race, sexuality or gender. I want to love everyone just as Christ loves them, but also to proclaim His truth. This is what I was doing during the Facebook discussion that I took part in,” he said in an article published by Premier Christianity. “I was convinced I had done the right thing by answering a question from someone who wanted to know if homosexuality was a sin and what the Bible said about it.”
“It is because of love and not hate that we share the word of God,” Ngole continued. “I don’t think I have lost the case at all because right now this very important issue is being discussed throughout the world for His glory. The word of God was also read in court, and as a result, it has been recorded for future reference. The body of Christ continues to unite in prayer in one accord because of today’s verdict. Clearly traditional Christian beliefs are being censored by our government.”