A local councillor who was forced to resign as Mayor of Ferryhill over social media posts on Facebook has had formal complaints about his conduct dismissed.
According to the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which supported Richard Smith, the former mayor was lambasted and forced to step down from his position after a number of activists, led by local drag queen ‘Tess Tickle’, campaigned for his removal over posts on his personal Facebook account.
Many of the activists complained about the posts — which included anti-transgender ideology memes and pro-traditional marriage statements — to Durham County Council.
The activists claimed Mr Smith’s posts were ‘homophobic, transphobic, extremist’ and stirring up hatred. He was also falsely accused of dishonesty relating to the distribution of food to the needy by Immanuel Christian Fellowship, of which he is a trustee.
However, Durham County Council has dismissed all of these complaints against him. In the decision, the council found he had the right to freedom of expression on his personal Facebook accounts.
Moreover, the majority of the posts were put up before his election as a town councillor, and none of these were made in his official capacity as either a councillor or mayor. The complaint alleging dishonesty provided no supporting evidence of its claims and no official complaints have been made to Greggs or Immanuel Christian Fellowship about the distribution of food.
In a statement from the CLC, Mr Smith welcomed the decision. He said, ‘I’m grateful the council has recognised my right to freely express my Christian faith while remaining a town councillor.
‘My faith in Christ is what drives me to help people regardless of their faith, disability, colour, culture, sexuality, or political persuasion.
‘I have never let the convictions of my faith dictate who receives my help or the help from the church. I’ve always been motivated by the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus, a love that is full of mercy and grace’.
He will not be reinstated as Mayor of Ferryhill, but can continue as a town councillor. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the CLC, commented, ‘He never should have been hounded out of his position as mayor, but we are pleased that he can continue to serve the public as a town councillor’.