Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageFree Speech: Devout Christian wins Facebook post ruling in court

By Robert Myles     Nov 17, 2012 in World
A devout Christian who expressed opposition to legalising gay marriage on his Facebook page has won a court case brought for breach of contract against his employers after losing his post as a housing manager and being forced to take a 40% pay cut.
Just a few weeks after Rowan Atkinson spoke in support of freedom of speech and the right to insult people at the launch of a campaign to reform Section 5 of the UK’s Public Order Act 1986, a Manchester based housing manager, Adrian Smith, a 54 year old father of two from Bolton, has won an important victory for freedom of speech in the High Court in London.
Following Mr Smith having posted on his Facebook page, with reference to gay weddings in churches, that they were “an equality too far” he lost a managerial position which he held with Trafford Housing Trust and was demoted to less remunerative employment.
Mr. Smith had posted the comments in his own private time on his Facebook page which was not visible by members of the general public. His employers had contended that he had broken their code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset fellow workers, reports Sky News.
At the High Court in London yesterday, the court found in favour of Mr Smith, Mr Justice Briggs saying, “Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct. (He was) then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40% reduction in salary. The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory."
Peter Tatchell speaking at Nottingham Pride in 2010
Peter Tatchell speaking at Nottingham Pride in 2010
Wikimedia Commons- mattbuck
Adrian Smith’s case had drawn wide support across the political spectrum. His court case was funded by The Christian Institute which welcomed the court ruling. Long time gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, director of human rights organisation the Peter Tatchell Foundation, had also voiced his support for Mr Smith. Speaking to The Bolton News, Mr Tatchell said, “(Adrian Smith’s) opposition to religious organisations being forced to conduct same-sex marriages is shared by the Prime Minister and the Equality Minister, the gay rights group Stonewall and the entire leadership of the Church of England. If Mr Smith is guilty, then they are all guilty. Mr Smith voiced his opinion in a calm, non-abusive manner. He was not threatening or intimidating.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail yesterday, Mr Tatchell added, ‘This is a victory for free speech and fair play. Although Adrian Smith opposes religious same-sex marriages, he supports the right of gay couples to get married in a civil ceremony in a register office. He is entitled to his view and should never have been demoted. Free speech is too often being eroded in the name of protecting people against real or imagined offence. It is a precious freedom and should only be limited in extreme circumstances, such as when people incite violence.’
In a statement released after the court case, Mr Smith said, "I'm pleased to have won my case for breach of contract today. The judge exonerated me and made clear that my comments about marriage were in no way 'misconduct'. Britain is a free country where people have freedom of speech, and I am pleased that the judge's ruling underlines that important principle. But this sad case should never have got this far. Long ago, Trafford Housing Trust should have held their hands up and admitted they made a terrible mistake. Had they done this then my life would not have been turned upside down and my family and I would not have had to endure a living nightmare."
For the defendants, Trafford Housing Trust’s CEO Matthew Gardiner said: "We fully accept the court's decision and I have made a full and sincere apology to Adrian. At the time we believed we were taking the appropriate action following discussions with our employment solicitors and taking into account his previous disciplinary record. This case has highlighted the challenges that businesses face with the increased use of social media and we have reviewed our documentation and procedures to avoid a similar situation arising in the future. Adrian remains employed by the Trust and I am pleased this matter has now concluded."
More about Facebook, Free speech, Gay marriage, christian institute, Peter tatchell
More news from
Latest News
Top News