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College chaplain loses unfair dismissal claim after being upset by LGBT training

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

A Church of England chaplain, who was sacked from a Derbyshire school after he delivered a sermon in the school chapel which he said encouraged respect and debate and said that it was OK for pupils to disagree with LGBT+ teaching, has lost his claim for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Rev Dr Bernard Randall was dismissed from independent Trent College in Long Eaton in 2019 after it was decided that his sermon was harmful to pupils, and he had been reported to the anti-terrorism Prevent programme – which normally identifies those at risk of radicalisation.

Dr Randall also brought claims of harassment, discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of his Christian beliefs against the college after his employment ended, supported by the Christian Legal Centre. He was seeking compensation over allegations of unfair dismissal and a recommendation under the Equality Act 2010.

The hearing took place last September and a verdict has now been delivered with Employment Judge Victoria Butler ruling against him on all claims. But Dr Randall, 50, says he will appeal the verdict. He described the ruling against him as a “blow for free speech and Christian freedoms”.

Dr Randall, who is also a former chaplain at Christ’s College Cambridge, had been concerned when at the start of the school year in 2018, Trent College had invited charity LGBT+ group Educate and Celebrate into the school. During a training session, he refused to join in with a chant from charity leader Elly Barnes to “smash heteronormativity” – the concept that heterosexuality is the preferred or normal mode of sexual orientation.

Giving her ruling, Judge Butler made the point that the C of E cites Educate and Celebrate as a recognised resource in the guidance. She said Dr Randall had ‘”misconceived” what Educate and Celebrate are and that he had had “an extreme reaction” to their involvement within the Christian school.

She said: “The claimant (Dr Randall) takes an extreme view of Education and Celebrate, which bears no resemblance to the reality of its purpose and implementation, which was aimed simply at creating an inclusive environment for all. We saw and heard no evidence that came anywhere close to supporting the claimant’s view that Educate and Celebrate would indoctrinate pupils in such a way.”

Afterwards, Dr Randall said: “I am extremely disappointed at this result. It is a personal blow, but more importantly, it is a blow for all those who believe in freedom of speech, in freedom of religion, and in an educational system which opens the minds of young people rather than narrowing them or imposing an ideology that many or most in our society find troubling.

“In this case, mainstream Christian beliefs about marriage are held by a minority in society, albeit a substantial one. They are hardly extreme: they arise out of God’s deep love for all people, and his desire for full human flourishing. They deserve to be taken seriously.

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