‘Disturbing’ anti-LGBT+ views can be protected under law, judge rules
A judge has ruled that “offensive, shocking or even disturbing” anti-LGBT+ views “can still be protected”.
Judge Sarak King ruled that an English school discriminated against Keith Waters, an evangelical minister it employed as a part-time caretaker, when it reprimanded him for calling LGBT+ Pride “harmful to children”.
Waters wrote in a since-deleted tweet in June 2019: “A reminder that Christians should not support LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events in June.
“They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. They are especially harmful to children.”
The tweet sparked backlash in the local community and media, prompting Isle of Ely Primary School, in Ely, Cambridgeshire, to launch an investigation. Water was given a final written warning, which he claimed was a violation of his religious freedom.
The Employment Tribunal found that Waters was indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of religion or belief when given the warning. It did not uphold claims of direct discrimination and constructive dismissal.
In her decision, judge Sarak King said even “offensive” views must be protected.
She cautioned that “widely shared beliefs demand particular care before it can be condemned as being not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
“Beliefs which are offensive, shocking or even disturbing to others can still be protected,” she said, according to The Daily Mail.
Waters posted his tweet as Cambridge hosted its first-ever LGBT+ Pride event, which included a parade along the city’s famous River Cam.
The school’s trust, Active Learning Trust, said in previous hearings that it received “very serious” concerns about his comment.
His views were described as “extremist”, “abhorrent” and “disgusting” in complaints from parents.
The school’s investigation concluded Waters’ remark was “highly inappropriate and offensive” and had damaged the reputation of the school.
Just a day before he stepped down, Waters was due to face a disciplinary hearing. He said he resigned from his role because he felt his job as a caretaker was now in conflict with his other role as a pastor.
He was issued a final written warning, which he unsuccessfully appealed against.
Active Learning Trust said: “We welcome the decision of the employment tribunal that the claims of direct discrimination and unfair dismissal were not well-founded and were dismissed.”
Waters has a track record of anti-LGBT+ remarks. He once compared affirming trans children’s identity to “emotional, mental and sexual abuse” and said that LGBT-inclusive education amounts to “indoctrination” and “abuse”.
Paul Hyde-Clark, chair of the charity The Pink Festival, which delivers Cambridge Pride, told PinkNews: “While the Pastor’s comments are damaging to the entire community, it is important that we work together to educate and bring people together.
“Pride Month and events like Cambridge Pride are working towards an equal world where human beings can love one another without shame or discrimination.
“We will keep doing that work until we’ve achieved that goal and we are grateful for everyone who shows their support.”
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