A Christian master's student kicked out of a course at England's University of Sheffield for expressing his biblical view of gay marriage has won the right to challenge the college’s decision.
Felix Ngole, 39, published a Facebook post in which he reportedly quoted Leviticus and criticized homosexuality in support of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, the local government official who was briefly jailed in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
He said at the time that he is “not against people who are in same-sex relationships” but said he should be “free to express” his personal perspective as a Christian.
The university’s fitness to practice committee decided that Ngole, a married father of four, had “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social work profession,” so he was cut from the class.
Ngole appealed the decision at the university level last summer, but his request was denied. However, this week, a judge on the High Court of London decided that Sheffield’s decision was over the top.
Ngole may now mount a judicial review in the court, The Sun reported.
“The university claims my views are discriminatory, but I am the one being discriminated against because of my expression of Christian beliefs,” the embattled student said.
The Cameroon-born Ngole, a religious education teacher, said the university’s decision carries with it broad consequences for the “freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”
“The expression that homosexuality is a ‘sin,’ or even use of the strong biblical term of ‘abomination,’ is a lawful religious expression,” said Paul Diamond, Ngole’s lawyer. “It is the duty of the court to robustly protect British freedoms.”
Ngole is being defended by the Christian Legal Centre. The organization’s chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said the High Court’s decision is a victory for free speech.
“The idea that someone could be expelled from a social work course for expressing a view in a Facebook post and then declared not fit to practice is very detrimental to free speech,” she said, according to The Telegraph. “Students with orthodox Christian views are being told that they aren’t fit to practice.”
“For religious people who believe now what most people used to believe,” she said, “it can be a bar to office.”
And in a separate statement, the Centre said Sheffield’s decision “fundamentally violates its responsibilities under human rights legislation.”
“Sadly, this is yet another case of Christians being punished in the public arena, and of censorship of views,” the religious liberties group said.
But Sarah Hannett, a lawyer representing the university, said Ngole’s Facebook post was public and his comments “were derogatory of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.”
“The views expressed are likely to undermine the trust and confidence that lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients are entitled to have in his professional role as a social worker [and in the social work profession more widely],” Hannett said.
Ngole’s full case is expected to be heard later this year.