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Photo Credit: Christian Concern
Photo Credit: Christian Concern
Photo Credit: Christian Concern
Photo Credit: Christian Concern
UK News

Christian school worker was not sacked because of her beliefs, governor says

A school sacked a Christian employee because she shared posts on Facebook criticising the teaching of LGBT relationships to young children, and not because of her religious beliefs, an employment tribunal has heard.

Kristie Higgs, 44, was dismissed for gross misconduct by Farmor's School in Fairford, Gloucestershire, last year after sharing two Facebook posts to around 100 people in her network.

The posts raised concerns about relationship education at her son's Church of England primary school, which was to teach the No Outsiders in Our School programme.

In one Facebook post, Mrs Higgs urged people to sign an online petition against making relationship education mandatory.

In another she shared an article about the rise of transgender ideology in children's books in American schools.

One anonymous Facebook friend of Mrs Higgs complained in October 2018 to the school, where she worked as a pastoral assistant.

Mrs Higgs, who posted under her maiden name, was suspended by the school's head and following a disciplinary process was sacked.

The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mrs Higgs and lawyers are arguing that her sacking breached her freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

School governor Stephen Conlan, who chaired the disciplinary panel, said she was dismissed because of the language used in the posts.

Mr Conlan, who is an employment lawyer, told the tribunal in Bristol: "We were not concerned with Mrs Higgs's religious beliefs. We were concerned with the manner in which those beliefs were expressed."

Pavel Stroilov, representing the mother-of-two, asked Mr Conlan if an employee would have been dismissed if they had posted tweets criticising Brexit - namely supporting the Bollocks to Brexit campaign.

"I don't know. It would depend on a whole host of things," Mr Conlan replied.

"I can't answer that hypothetical situation. It's simply not possible to say whether I would dismiss. It is based on the circumstances."

Mr Conlan was asked if Mrs Higgs would have been dismissed if she had posted on Facebook in support of LGBT teaching in schools and a complaint had been received from someone holding the opposite view.

"If we are looking at exactly the same, exact set of circumstances, I would say it would still be a gross misconduct case because it is not about the views, but the manner in which they are expressed," Mr Conlan replied.

"She is entitled to express her religious beliefs but the issue was the manner in which they were expressed. The school has not said it has a problem with her expressing her beliefs.

"You can post your beliefs without posting this sort of language and it is perfectly possible to communicate your beliefs without using such strong language."

Mrs Higgs, from Fairford, appealed against her dismissal and an appeal panel upheld the original decision.

Mr Stroilov suggested Mr Conlan, who was present at the appeal before three different governors, had "dominated" the hearing.

Mr Conlan replied: "I don't think I dominated the hearing at all."

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