A school chaplain who was reported to an anti-terrorism programme for delivering a sermon which questioned the school's LGBT policies, has told Premier his world “fell apart” when he realised that he was seen as a terrorist.
Rev Dr Bernard Randall was suspended from Trent College, a Church of England school, in 2019 after he preached that it was acceptable for students to hold traditional views on marriage, sex and gender identity.
The chaplain said he was asked by a student to talk about LGBT+ issues, following the adoption of teaching material from 'Educate and Celebrate', which aims to "equip you and your communities with the knowledge, skills and confidence to embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your organisation."
The school subsequently took disciplinary action after Rev Randall shared the sermon with his students. It was while going through the documentation related to the disciplinary action that Rev Randall discovered that he had also been referred to Prevent, an anti-terrorism programme designed to stop radicalisation in the UK.
“It's not as if they sat me down and said, “This is what we feel we have to do”. I found that, as it were, by accident and all of a sudden, my world falls apart because I'm being accused of being a terrorist, which is just about the worst thing you can accuse anybody of in our society on the basis of I knew not what. It was just extraordinary,” Rev Randall said.
The police later ruled that Rev Dr Randall was not a “'counter-terrorism risk” nor “risk of radicalisation'. Although it has been two years since the process started, the chaplain says that being thought of as a terrorist “is still a wound”.
“Fortunately, it was only a few days before the disciplinary hearing where I was given a chance to ask questions, and I said as part of that, “Do you think the Church of England is a terrorist organisation?” to which the [headteacher] said, “Well, no. And oh, we probably should have told you that Prevent referral came back with no further action required.”
He went on to say that although the process has been traumatic, it has actually pushed him to become more vocal about freedom of speech, especially as a Christian.
“The bizarre thing about being reported to Prevent which is supposed to tackle violent extremism is that it has pushed me a bit towards being more radical about the importance of free speech. It's not violent extremism, but it's made me much more aware of that as an issue. It's slightly ironic, I'm now more likely to speak about it than I was before.
“I think as a Christian in particular, speaking about truth is really important, as Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life”. He didn't say, “I am the opinion, the feeling and the lived experience”, or whatever some of these things that people attach themselves to might be, and truth really, really matters. I've become all the more convinced of the importance of standing up to speak truth, and to challenge what appear to me to be untruths in our society,” Rev Randall concluded.
Rev Randall has launched a legal challenge against the school for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal and an employment hearing will take place on 14th June.
Trent College has been contacted for comment.