‘A Christian social work student has been expelled from his course after voicing anti-gay marriage opinions on Facebook.
Felix Ngole, 38, was a second-year masters student at Sheffield University when he shared a Facebook post saying “I stand with Kim Davis” – the American county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. He also commented on the link quoting a bible verse from Leviticus calling homosexuality an “abomination” in September 2015. Two months later he said he received an email from the university asking him to attend a meeting to discuss the posts and the father of four was then referred to a fitness to practise committee, which decided he should be ejected from the course.
A letter revealing the committee’s decision later told him his actions had “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social work profession” and ordered him to hand in his student card. The committee said its decision was not based on his views but the act of publicly posting them “may have caused offence to some individuals”.
Mr Ngole said: “My beliefs about marriage and sexual ethics reflect mainstream, biblical understanding, shared by millions around the world. Simply expressing that understanding, in a personal capacity, on my Facebook page, cannot be allowed to become a bar to serving and helping others in a professional capacity as a social worker.”
Mr Ngole is appealing against the decision, but if it is not overturned it may prevent him from becoming a social worker. He believes the decision is an effective “bar to office for Christians” and that he may suffered discrimination.
He said: “I wonder whether the university would have taken any action if a Muslim student who believes in Sharia law, with its teaching about women and homosexuality, had made moderate comments on his Facebook page. I don’t think so.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr Ngole, said: “Sadly, this is yet another case of Christians being ‘neutered’ in the public arena, and of censorship of views.”
A spokeswoman said Sheffield was “concerned” about reports of Mr Ngole’s case in the media which were “factually incorrect”.
She said: “The individual concerned is currently appealing the decision of a Fitness to Practise Committee, relating to professional registration and the standards of the relevant professional body. The standards are nationally determined by the Health and Care Professions Council. As the case is subject to appeal, the University of Sheffield will not comment on this case at this time.”‘
Since the above article was written, Mr Ngole went to the High Court, which also voted against him. He intends to appeal through the Supreme Court.
The above case raise a number of issues about freedom of speech.
The first is about the issue of being able to hold a view which may or not offend someone. To take it to the extreme, if any viewpoint offends someone then there will often be someone who is offended by the person who is offended! It is all about the attitude of the person stating a value or belief, whether it is done in a gentle of spirit of concern, then under the European Convention of Human Rights they are entitled to that view. The issue in Felix Ngole’s case is more about what he believes rather whether he hates homosexuals, which I suspect he does not. Therefore, trying to get around the discrimination against him, they argue that it would mean he is not fit to practise social work. This is discrimination, so I find the High Court’s decision strange.
The second is that because he voiced his belief, in a ‘private’ discussion on Facebook, leads to the worry that Christians who are either current and potential social workers could be ‘outed’, then sacked and thus this will greatly reduce the numbers of a profession that is in the middle of crisis because of a shortage of workers. This ‘process’ could lead to a number of professions not employing Christians who not toe the ‘party line’.
Human rights can be divided into ‘foundational’, ‘social’ rights and ‘moral’ rights. ‘Foundational’ rights are the basis on which all the other rights are based:
- a right to, practice of, and convert to a belief system
The next group concerns ‘social’ rights such as:
- a right to life
- a right to freedom from racial discrimination
- a right to freedom from sex discrimination (men and women)
- a right to freedom of speech
- a right to employment
Then there are those which are ‘moral’ rights such as:
- a right to marry
- a right to discrimination from gender discrimination (eg Homosexuality)
- a right to private property
- a right to freedom of movement
I know that the above may be disagreed with, but it is a starting point to a discussion of what human rights is all about and how we come to decide what rights there should be.
All human rights have a basis in whatever is our belief system, hence the need for a ‘foundational’ right. The problem today is that we are at a stage where we are not using a cohesive belief framework from which values and morals determine what is right and what is wrong. It is made up as we go along, and those who are the ‘loudest’ seem to get their way, despite the consequences. A good example of that was the Nazi ideology which led to the killing of many millions of people, or Stalinism in Russia – the same happened there. But, nowadays, it is more subtle, and the media often play a part in ‘promoting’ valueless ideologies, sometimes unwittingly.
Christians themselves do not have a consistent biblical worldview and thus they speak with a disjointed voice, often only focusing on a single issue, usually on a moral matter, and forget the need for a ‘whole-life’ perspective that involves everything from how to conduct themselves in work, one’s use of the environment, how we advocate justice and punishment etc. This where the teaching and training in church for all Christians is essential, so that as a body we can make a difference to a world which is falling apart in a more effective, loving and transformative way. That also means, that church leaders need effective teaching and training in this matter. We are in a ‘battle’ for the minds and souls of people, seeking to provide a model as to the way forward. Hence the necessity of preaching salvation and a biblical worldview. This is under attack and we all need to speak out in a loving manner for our right as believers to speak out and provide a way to redeem the world from the crisis it is in, through our lives and words.