UK Chaplain Sues College For Discrimination After His Dismissal For a Sermon Questioning LGBT Policy

A UK school chaplain, forced out of his job after he gave a sermon defending the rights of students to question the introduction of new LGBT policies, has taken legal action against the college.

The Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall, 48, ordained in the Church of England and a former chaplain of Christ's College, Cambridge, is suing Trent College for discrimination, harassment, discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The lawsuit comes after he raised concerns over the school's training and adoption of teaching material by Dr. Elly Barnes and her organization, Educate & Celebrate, which aims to "embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your organization."

After Randall gave a sermon entitled "Competing Ideologies" to students—some of whom had raised their own concerns about the material that was introduced—he was later disciplined by the school and unbeknownst to him, reported to Prevent (the UK's counter terrorism strategy).

He was fired over the sermon, then re-instated by the School Governors (the charity trustees/legal owners of the school). Later, he became furloughed during the COVID-19 lockdown and was not welcomed back.

According to Randall's job description, his role was to be "the particular voice and embodiment of ... Christian values, which are at the heart of Trent's ethos." Trent College is a Protestant and evangelical Church of England school near Nottingham, England.

"I was doing my job, which was to speak to spiritual and moral issues wherever they arose," Randall told Newsweek. "Regardless of specific Christian beliefs, it was also a matter of fundamental human rights to freedom of conscience and expression."

The Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall
The Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall. Christian Concern

The action Randall is now pursuing against the school is under the Equality Act of 2010.

He is suing the school at an Employment Tribunal, a type of UK court that specializes in employment disputes.

"Ironically it's the same law that protects against discrimination that Educate and Celebrate claimed to be upholding," Randall said, noting it protects against discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, marriage, gender, reassignment, race, pregnancy, and religion and belief.

In September 2018, Barnes conducted the staff training at the school where Randall raised concerns. At the time, he was assured by the school's head teacher that he would be involved in any decision-making process in terms of implementing the instruction.

On the Educate & Celebrate website, Barnes' "About" page describes her as an experienced teacher who started her LGBT+ inclusive work in 2005 and set up her own school as a Diversity Training Center for teachers in 2010.

It also states that she was voted No. 1 in The Independent on Sundays Rainbow List 1011 for her commitment to LGBT in education and awarded a "highly commended" by the TES 'Teacher of the Year' 2012.

In 2018, she was voted DIVA Activist of the Year.

But according to the Christian Legal Centre—a legal organization that provides pro bono legal support for Christians experiencing discrimination and is supporting Randall—Barnes openly declares the philosophy of her organization to "smash heteronormativity."

In a statement, the Christian Legal Centre also said that she wrongly informed staff that "gender identity" is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act and must be legally recognized as a statutory requirement at the school.

Newsweek reached out to Barnes via her website and Instagram for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

After Randall's June 2019 sermon, during which he said he said "we must respect one another no matter what, even people we disagree with," he was told his beliefs "were not relevant and had hurt some people's feelings and undermined the school's LGBT agenda."

While he presented the Church of England's biblical position on marriage and human nature during the homily, he explained to the students—ages 11-17—that they were not compelled to "accept an ideology they disagree with." He also encouraged them to debate and make up their own minds on the issue.

A passage from Randall's sermon included, "By all means discuss, have a reasoned debate about beliefs, but while it's OK to try and persuade each other, no one should be told they must accept an ideology. Love the person, even where you profoundly dislike the ideas. Don't denigrate a person simply for having opinions and beliefs, which you don't share."

Following the sermon, the school's deputy head Jeremy Hallows, who is responsible for pastoral matters, and Justine Remington, the school's "designated safeguarding lead" called him in for questioning.

"The questioning felt hostile from the outset, and I quickly heard myself being told that what I had actually said didn't matter," Randall told Newsweek. He also noted feeling that he was "not at his best" and that he arrived at the meeting stressed, scared, bemused and frustrated.

"I felt my faith was being belittled and dismissed as unacceptable by people who didn't begin to understand it," he added.

"One of my frustrations is that I had not talked about my own beliefs, but I was having beliefs I do not hold imputed to me. It was being assumed that I am homophobic," said Randall in his statement during a disciplinary panel.

Afterward, Randall underwent a disciplinary process. His sermons were heavily censored when he was allowed to return to the school. His full-time hours were also reduced to seven per week, before he was eventually made redundant by the school's head teacher.

"On professional advice, it would not be appropriate for the school to provide any further comment at this time, in light of ongoing Employment Tribunal proceedings," Trent College officials said, when contacted by Newsweek for comment.

For now, Randall awaits the legal proceedings not knowing what the future holds for himself or his family.

He said he understood that part of the school's new training was about not discriminating against people because of their sexuality, which he said is in UK law and fits with "loving your neighbor as yourself."

The problem comes, he added, when a much deeper ideological position is smuggled in with it.

"That's the part I was objecting to. I think most of the problem is that the leadership didn't understand about the political side to things," said Randall.

"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."

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