A Christian teacher and former social work student has won the right to challenge the university that expelled him for opposing gay marriage in a post on Facebook.
Felix Ngole, a 38 year-old father of four from Cameroon, was asked to leave the University of Sheffield in early 2016, where he was in the second year of a Masters in social work.
University faculty said Ngole might have ’caused offence’ by expressing support for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licences.
In comments on Facebook in September 2015 – not visible to anyone outside his circle of friends – Ngole quoted Leviticus in support of biblical teaching on marriage and sexual ethics, saying homosexuality was sinful.
Following a Faculty of Social Sciences ‘fitness to practise’ committee hearing, Ngole was told he had been ‘excluded from further study on a programme leading to a professional qualification’ and was ‘no longer recognised as a university student’.
t was argued that he had ‘transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social work profession’. His action would have an effect on his ‘ability to carry out a role as a social worker,’ the committee said.
Now Ngole has won the right to challenge his expulsion, according to Mail Online.
Deputy High Court Judge James Lewis said it could be ruled that the university’s decision was inappropriate, and gave permission for Ngole to take his case to the High Court in London. Ngole can now mount a judicial review of the decision, and a judge will likely rule on the case after a trial in the autumn.
Ngole’s case is supported by the Christian Legal Centre, part of the advocacy group Christian Concern.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre said: ‘The university’s treatment of Felix fundamentally violates its responsibilities under human rights legislation.
‘The university has failed to protect his freedom of speech…and his freedom of religion.’
She added: ‘Felix has worked with people who identify as homosexual, treating them with respect and kindness. What he shared on his Facebook page simply reflects biblical teaching on sexual behaviour.
‘Unless he wins this case he will be forever barred from social work. Felix is entitled to express his views, especially ones shared by millions of people around the world.
‘There is no evidence that Felix’s views adversely impacted his work. Quite the contrary, he was a hard-working student who would be an asset to the profession. Sadly, this is yet another case of Christians being punished in the public arena, and of censorship of views.’
Ngole’s advocate, Barrister Paul Diamond told Judge Lewis: ‘This case is another case in a long list of cases where a Christian adherent has expressed the traditional view on sexual sin.
‘It is submitted that such speech is disfavoured by the state and expressions of such viewpoints evince disproportionate sanction. It is the duty of the court to robustly protect British freedoms.’
Defending the university, Barrister Sarah Hannett said the problem was not Ngole’s views but hopw they were expressed. She said Ngole ‘posted comments on a publicly accessible Facebook page that were derogatory of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.
‘The views expressed are likely to undermine the trust and confidence that lesbian, gay and bisexual clients are entitled to have in his professional role as a social worker (and in the social work profession more widely).’
Ngole hopes to return to his degree if he is successful. The Christian Legal Centre say the case has important implications for Christians in wider society.
‘I am excited,’ Ngole said. ‘This is not just about me.’