Felix Ngole was studying for an MA in Social Work at Sheffield university. In 2015 he made comments using his personal Facebook account on the story of the American registrar Kim Davis who was imprisoned after conscientiously refusing to register same-sex marriages. Felix expressed his Christian beliefs on the issue and argued that: “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 to demonstrate this.
Nearly two months later, Felix received an email from a university official informing him that his Facebook comments were being investigated. He was later interviewed by an investigatory team, and subsequently removed from his course by a panel chaired by Professor Marsh, an LGBT rights campaigner.
Felix, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, sought to challenge the university’s decision in a judicial review which was heard in the High Court over two days. The court ruled that the university acted lawfully in removing Felix from his course.
‘May have caused offence’
The court heard that the university “investigatory team accepted that Felix was fully entitled to his religious beliefs, and had acted with honesty and integrity”. The university held that it was not Felix’s views that were at issue, but his public posting of these views. They held that this expression of his views “may have caused offence to some individuals”.
The university argued that they were right to sanction Felix and bar him from his chosen profession in spite of the fact that Felix had lawfully expressed his Christian views as a practicing Christian, outside of his professional studies, in a context in which he was not identified as a social work student, and despite this expression having no impact on his work and professional abilities.