A Christian chaplain who delivered a talk at a college, encouraging students that they have the right to hold a traditional view on sexuality and marriage, is launching a legal challenge after he was suspended and reported to anti-terror programme Prevent.
Speaking in 2019 to Trent College, a Protestant and evangelical Church of England school near Nottingham, Rev Dr Bernard Randall, 48, said that there were areas of LGBT+ teaching that overlapped with Christian teaching, such as being against discrimination, but that it was okay for students to make up their own mind on marriage, sex and gender identity.
He said: "there are areas where the two sets of ideas are in conflict, and in these areas you do not have to accept the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists."
He added: "So it is perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law. You may perfectly properly believe that, as an ideal, sexual activity belongs only within such marriage, and that therefore any other kind is morally problematic. That is the position of all the major faith groups - though note that it doesn’t apply only to same-sex couples.
"And it is a belief based, not only on scripture, but on a highly positive view of marriage as the building block of a society where people of all kinds flourish, and on recognising that there are many positive things in life more important than sex, if only we’d let them be. This viewpoint is recognised by many people as extremely liberating. And it’s an ethical position which could also be arrived at independently of any religious text, I think."
Read the full text of the sermon here.
The chaplain said he was asked by a student to talk about LGBT+ issues, following the training and 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."
Rev Dr Randall, whose job description declared his role to "be the particular voice and embodiment of...Christian values which are at the heart of Trent's ethos", was alarmed when during the training staff were instructed to chant "smash heteronormativity."
After a disciplinary hearing following his talk, Rev Dr Randall received a letter in August 2019 stating that the head master had concluded that his actions had amounted to gross misconduct and that he would be dismissed.
According to Christian Concern, who are backing his legal challenge, his sacking was overturned by the school's governors after an appeal and he was given a final warning instead.
He was provided with conditions that he had to comply with regarding any future sermons. This included banning him from broaching:
"Any topic or express any opinion (in Chapel or more generally around School) that is likely to cause offence or distress to members of the school body."
In 2020, he was put on furlough and then made redundant during the coronavirus pandemic.
He is now taking Trent College to court for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal.
An employment tribunal hearing is expected to be heard at East Midlands Employment Tribunal from 14th June 2021.
According to Christian Concern, the school's designated safeguard lead also started reporting him to the government's anti-terror watchdog Prevent and to the Local Authority Designated Officer, who steps in when there are concerns raised about adults working with children.
Rev Dr Randall said: "I am not ashamed to say that I cried with relief when I was told that the report to Prevent was not going to be taken further.
"During the disciplinary hearing, I was never asked what I thought, they just assumed that I had extreme religious views. I don't think the Church of England is an extremist organisation.
"I was doing the job I was employed to do. I wasn't saying anything that I should not have been able to say in any liberal secular institution. Everyone should be free to accept or reject an ideology. Isn't that what liberal democracy means?
"My story sends a message to other Christians that you are not free to talk about your faith. It seems it is no longer enough to just 'tolerate' LGBT ideology. You must accept it without question and no debate is allowed without serious consequences. Someone else will decide what is and what isn't acceptable, and suddenly you can become an outcast, possibly for the rest of your life."
Trent College has been contacted for a comment.