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Headteacher denies Christian employee was suspended for her religious beliefs

by Press Association

A secondary school headteacher has denied he suspended a member of his staff because she was a Christian who spoke out about teaching LGBT relationships to young children.

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.

The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mrs Higgs's case, in which she argues her sacking breached her freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

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

The mother-of-two, who posted under her maiden name, was subsequently suspended by headmaster Matthew Evans and following a disciplinary process sacked.

Mr Evans told the employment tribunal his priority after receiving the complaint was to uphold "confidence" in the school.

He told the court the identity of the complainant was kept confidential as they would be known to Mrs Higgs and tasked the school's business manager to investigate.

"It was not because of the beliefs. These posts have been shared and apparently endorsed and my concern was that might lead to a loss of confidence in the school," he said.

"I think it was important to establish the reasons why Mrs Higgs had shared these posts and upon reflection whether she thinks whether that was a wise thing to do."

Pavel Stroilov, representing Mrs Higgs, asked Mr Evans: "And she is prepared to denounce these beliefs?"

Mr Evans replied: "There was no intention upon my part. I think it was important to establish who had seen these posts.

"I didn't know who was friends with Mrs Higgs on Facebook, whether it was limited to one parent, whether she had posted them, whether she had typed it or cut and pasted it - there was lots of things I didn't know."

Mr Stroilov asked Mr Evans whether hypothetically if Mrs Higgs shared a contrary view in support of teaching children about LGBT relationships and a complaint had been made, would she have been suspended.

"No, I don't because the Sex and Relationship Act places a duty on schools," he replied.

Mr Stroilov asked Mr Evans whether Mrs Higgs by making that post was "expressing her right to free speech".

He replied: "I accept that you have the right to say what you believe in public or private location. I didn't know enough about her religious beliefs to know what she was expressing."

Earlier, Mrs Higgs continued to give evidence and accused Mr Evans of "influencing" the disciplinary process.

"They had already made up their mind when Mr Evans started his investigation. People have a different belief system than I do. It doesn't make me wrong," Mrs Higgs, from Fairford, said.

"We could have had a conversation, and I tell him my views, and take it from there. Instead he went straight in, believing that parent who said all those awful things which I am not, I am not a hater."

Barrister Debbie Grennan, representing the school, asked Mrs Higgs whether a man who underwent gender reassignment surgery and had obtained a gender recognition certificate was a woman.

"They are still male," Mrs Higgs replied.

"In this land I accept they have got their certificate. That's who they say they are but God is who made them.

"God's law says they cannot change their gender, the law says they can. This does not mean you have to accept it. It doesn't mean I hate them, or they are not my friends."

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