Expelled student Felix Ngole is to appeal a court decision that effectively ruled he had freedom to believe the Word of God, but not to express that belief publicly.
Mr Ngole, who was studying for a masters in social work at Sheffield University, was kicked off his course, because of comments he posted on his own Facebook page, quoting passages from the Bible about God’s view of marriage.
A university investigation into the comments was headed by a prominent LGBT campaigner. Following a lengthy court case, and supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), Mr Ngole had a hearing in the High Court last year.
The court heard the university’s investigatory team found Mr Ngole was entitled to his religious beliefs, and had acted with honesty and integrity, but considered his views might have caused offence to some individuals.
The judgment from the High Court reflected this view, that Mr Ngole could not reasonably follow his chosen profession if these were indeed his views. It said Mr Ngole was permitted to have such views, honestly held, based on his religious beliefs. However, while freedom of expression is permitted, such comments could be perceived in a way that would give rise to offence. This means the university was within its rights to sanction him so strongly.
Summarising, Andrea Williams, CLC chief executive, commented: ‘The university, in investigating Mr Ngole’s personal Facebook posts and disciplining him for them, is acting as if they are thought police. This ruling will have a chilling effect on Christian students up and down the country who will now understand that their personal social media posts may be investigated for political correctness.
‘The judgment stated: “Freedom of expression is an important right. Exercising that right to express the content of deeply held religious views deserves respect in a democratic and plural society, nowhere more so than in a university”. In this case the judge has failed to safeguard Mr Ngole’s freedom of expression, in spite of the importance she rightly attaches to that freedom’.
Mr Ngole is set to appeal the judgment.