Christian school worker loses sacking claim in LGBT teaching row
A school worker who claimed she was sacked because of her Christian beliefs has lost her employment tribunal case.
Kristie Higgs, 44, was dismissed for gross misconduct by Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire, last year after sharing Facebook posts criticising plans to teach LGBT relationships in primary schools.
The mother-of-two, from Fairford, shared and commented on posts which raised concerns about relationship education at her son’s Church of England primary school.
Students were to learn about the No Outsiders in Our School programme, which is a series of books teaching the Equality Act in primary schools.
Mrs Higgs, who was posting on Facebook under her maiden name, shared two posts in October 2018 to around 100 friends.
One of the posts referred to “brainwashing our children” and added: “Children will be taught that all relationships are equally valid and ‘normal’, so that same sex marriage is exactly the same as traditional marriage, and gender is a matter of choice, not biology, so that it’s up to them what sex they are.
“We say again this is a vicious form of totalitarianism aimed at suppressing Christianity and removing it from the public arena.”
An anonymous complaint was made to the school and Mrs Higgs was suspended and later dismissed for gross misconduct following a disciplinary hearing.
Mrs Higgs, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, took the school to an employment tribunal arguing she had been unlawfully discriminated against because of her Christian beliefs.
In its ruling, the tribunal concluded that her religion was a “protected characteristic” as defined by the Equality Act.
This contradicted rulings made in two earlier employment tribunals considering claims for discrimination on the grounds of religion by people opposed to transgender recognition.
Employment Judge Derek Reed said: “The belief that sex and gender are ‘set at birth’ may be upsetting to certain people, but if freedom of speech and the rights within articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights only extended to expressions of belief that could upset no-one they would be worthless.
“Essentially, to find as the tribunals did in the cases to which we were referred would amount to a declaration that it is ‘open season’ on people that hold and express the beliefs in question – that they do not deserve protection.
“That seemed to us to be a strange and somewhat disturbing conclusion.”
The school had denied dismissing Mrs Higgs because of her religious beliefs and said she was sacked because of the language used in the posts.
In the ruling, the judge said: “We concluded that not only the dismissal but the entire proceedings taken against Mrs Higgs were motivated by a concern on the part of the school that, by reason of her posts, she would be perceived as holding unacceptable views in relation to gay and trans people – views which in fact she vehemently denied that she did hold.”
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Higgs said she was “disappointed” with the judgment and planned to appeal.
“I strongly maintain that I lost my job because of my Christian beliefs, beliefs which our society does not appear to tolerate or even understand any more,” she said.
“It’s hard to believe that the school would take one anonymous complaint and escalate it to all this.
“I shared these posts as a mother who was deeply concerned about the compulsory sex education being forced on my nine-year-old son at a Church of England primary school.
“These views were compared to that of a ‘pro-Nazi right-wing extremist’, which is highly offensive to me and millions of Christians across the world.
“I want parents to have the freedom to bring their children up in line with their Christian beliefs, I want young children to be protected from this harmful ideology.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This judgment should concern all of us who care about the freedom to be a Christian believer in the UK.
“Even though no one actually thinks or claimed that Kristie holds hateful views, she is being fired because one anonymous ‘friend’ said they were and because others might think the same.”