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Christian student to challenge uni expulsion in Court of Appeal

Sun 10 Mar 2019
By Cara Bentley

A student is to challenge the University of Sheffield's decision to expel him for Facebook comments about same sex marriage at the Court of Appeal next week

Felix Ngole, 40, was studying for an MA in Social Work at the University of Sheffield in 2015 when he made comments using his personal Facebook account on the story of the American registrar Kim Davis, who had been imprisoned after conscientiously refusing to register same-sex marriages.

Mr Ngole expressed his beliefs on the issue, saying: "same sex marriage is a sin whether we like it or not. It is God’s words and man’s sentiments would not change His words."

He was asked where in the Bible it says that same-sex marriage is wrong, and he quoted various passages. 

 
Two months later, Mr Ngole received a university email informing him that his Facebook comments were being investigated.

He was interviewed by an investigatory team and subsequently removed from his course by a panel chaired by Professor Jacqueline Marsh from the School of Education and was no longer able to train to become a social worker. 

In October 2017, he lost a high court battle with the University's lawyers argueing that he showed “no insight” and that the decision to remove him from the course was fair and proportionate.

They said he had been studying for a professional qualification and university bosses had to consider his “fitness to practise”. 

In October 2018, Mr Ngole was granted permission to appeal the High Court’s judgment. 

He will be represented in court by religious freedoms barrister, Paul Diamond, who will argue that the High Court judgment is wrong in law and implies that 6 million UK workers in all regulated professions (e.g. doctors, teachers, lawyers) could be silenced by their professional bodies for publicly expressing unpopular beliefs.
 
Mr Ngole said: “I pray that the court will recognise the freedom to express my Christian faith. It is chilling that we live in a society where you can share your beliefs on social media and yet you find yourself in trouble when certain people disagree with you."
 
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is backing the student, said: “Free speech is not meaningfully free if it only applies to views that everyone finds acceptable, or only applies in private. Without free speech, the ideas and ideology of cultural elites – whomever they may be – cannot be challenged and democracy becomes impossible. Everyone should support Felix, because without this freedom being protected, anyone regulated by a professional body could have their career ended simply for posting views online that the employer doesn’t like.
 
“Once again, the freedom to be a committed Christian while holding a professional role is under threat. From magistrates to nurses, teachers to doctors, Christian professionals are increasingly under pressure to hide away their beliefs – to hide away the light of Christ in them, depriving society of the love of Jesus.”

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