News » Workplace

U.K. Judge OKs Job Demotion for Anti-Gay Facebook Remarks

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday Apr 2, 2012
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A judge has ruled that Adrian Smith, a housing worker in Manchester, England, cannot use human rights arguments in his case against his employer who demoted him because of anti-gay comments he made on his Facebook account.

In October 2011, the Catholic Herald reported that Smith was demoted because of remarks he made on his Facebook account. He suggested that marriage should only be between a man and a woman and his employer, Trafford Housing Trust, said Smith breached the company’s "code of conduct."

Smith posted a link on his Facebook page to a BBC article titled, "Gay church marriages get go ahead" and said "an equality too far." One of Smith’s coworkers commented on the article and asked, "Does this mean you don’t approve?"

"I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church," Smith replied. "The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women. If the state wants to offer civil marriage to the same sex then that is up to the state; but the state shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience".

Smith’s employer soon got wind of the remarks and quickly demoted him from his position as housing manager, which resulted in a 40 percent pay decrease, the Charisma News reported.

Although District Judge Charles Khan at Manchester County Court ruled that Smith cannot use human rights arguments in his case against the Trafford Housing Trust, Smith will still seek legal action and argue that the company is in breach of contract.

"This ruling, while not fatal to Smith’s case, is deeply concerning. It reinforces the widely held perception that Christians are not afforded the same human rights as others," a spokesman for the case said. "If the shoe were on the other foot, if an employee had been disciplined for advocating gay marriage, it is inconceivable that human rights arguments wouldn’t apply. This ruling is particularly relevant at the present time, as the government is planning to redefine marriage. Many people who believe in traditional marriage are worried that they will be penalized for their beliefs."

Trafford Housing Company "provides social housing for Trafford Council and is a hybrid body -- both public and private," the Charisma News points out.

When Smith’s story made headlines late last year the U.K.’s Housing Minster, Grant Shapps, said that the company’s actions were "excessive and disproportionate" and even the LGBT rights activist, Peter Tatchell, agreed and defended Smith.

Smith’s lawyers argue that the U.K.’s Human Right Act protects him because the Trafford Housing Company’s employment practices fall under its public function. But Judge Khan sided with the company and agreed that its employment practices are part of its private functions.

Smith’s case will be heard this summer.

In a similar case, a former theater professor from Lamar University is suing the Texas college after she was fired for refusing to attend a performance by gay artist Tim Miller. Linda Ozmun said that she could not go to the show because of her religious beliefs. She also refused to attend other gay-themed performances, which led to the school letting her go.

Comments

  • John Allman, 2012-04-03 11:35:17

    As I recall, the judge did not "OK" the demotion. He ruled (and it’s probably worth appealing), that although the Housing Association was exercising a public law function in providing housing, it was exercising a private law function in its employment practices, placing the aggrieved in the same position as anybody working for a private sector employer, rather than an employee of a public sector employer, who can use the Human Rights Act in additional ways not open to a private sector employee. He can still challenge the demotion, just not as a quasi-public sector employee, using the public law duties of public authorities under the Human Rights Act as part of his legal argument. The claimant did not make any "anti-gay" comments, and the prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has offered to testify for him. He can still win his claim for unfair dismissal, even without appealing the decision reported here.


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