Christian employee wins Facebook comments case

Published 16 November 2012

A Christian who was demoted because of a comment he wrote on his Facebook page opposing gay weddings has won a court case against his employers.

Adrian Smith wrote that gay weddings in churches would be "an equality too far". The post was made outside of working hours and was not visible to the general public.

His employers, Trafford Housing Trust, said the comments amounted to "gross misconduct" and claimed they could bring the organisation into disrepute.

The trust then demoted Mr Smith from his managerial position and cut his salary by 40%.

Mr Smith took the trust to court on the grounds that the disciplinary action was a breach of contract and his human rights.

According to The Christian Institute, which financed Mr Smith's legal defence, it emerged in evidence that the trust was worried it would lose a gay rights charter award if it failed to take action against Mr Smith.

The High Court judge ruled today that the trust had no right to demote Mr Smith over his Facebook comments and that its actions were a "serious" breach of contract.

Despite his joy over the court victory, Mr Smith spoke of his concern for other people who express their opposition to traditional marriage in the future.

"I have won today. But what will tomorrow bring? I am fearful that, if marriage is redefined, there will be more cases like mine – and if the law of marriage changes people like me may not win in court," he said.

"Does the Prime Minister want to create a society where people like me, people who believe in traditional marriage, are treated as outcasts? That may not be his intention, but that's what will happen.

"The Prime Minister should think very carefully about the impact of redefining marriage on ordinary people."

In his ruling today, the judge said Mr Smith's Facebook comment was not disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence, and could not be viewed as homophobic.

"As to their content, they are widely held views frequently to be heard on radio and television, or read in the newspapers," the judge said.

"Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct, and then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40 per cent reduction in salary.

"The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory."

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