Christian employee’s pay slashed over Facebook comments

A Christian employee at a housing association in Manchester has had his pay cut by 40 per cent over comments he made about homosexual civil partnerships on Facebook.

Adrian Smith shared a link on his Facebook page to a news headline about gay church marriages being given the go ahead, to which he added the comment: “an equality too far.”

The comment was read by two colleagues, one of whom asked him to explain what he meant. Mr Smith replied that he could not understand why people of no faith would want to marry in a church and that the state “should not impose its rules on places of faith and conscience”.

The colleagues complained to their employers at Trafford Housing Trust about the comments. An investigation and disciplinary proceedings were launched against Mr Smith, before they took the decision to demote him from his managerial post and cut his salary by 40 per cent.

Although the comments were made on Mr Smith’s personal page and outside of work hours, the trust said the remarks had damaged their reputation and amounted to gross misconduct.

Mr Smith was told he had only been spared dismissal because of his loyal service over the last 18 years.

Although Mr Smith appealed the decision, it was upheld by senior managers. He is now taking the trust to court, claiming unlawful interference with his rights to free speech and religious liberty.

He is being supported in his legal challenge by the Christian Institute and solicitor Tom Ellis, of the Manchester-based law firm Aughton Ainsworth.

Mr Ellis said his client had been left no other choice but to seek justice through the court after the trust refused to respond to a letter they sent requesting that Mr Smith be given his job back.

“As a Christian, Adrian believes in the values of fairness, courtesy and respect for the opinions of others," said Mr Ellis.

"These are the values of a mature and healthy society. Surely that leaves room for colleagues to discuss and even disagree about the topics of the day. Conversations like that happen in offices and factories up and down the country every day.

“Nothing he said was offensive or abusive. His comments were calm, measured and reasonable. Adrian has been treated disproportionately and even those who disagree with his opinions will surely agree that he has been treated unfairly.”

Mike Judge, of The Christian Institute, said the comments made by Mr Smith on civil partnerships were “tame and inoffensive” and that he had been the victim of a “witch hunt”.

“The comments certainly don’t amount to gross misconduct, which is usually reserved for things like theft or fraud,” he said.

“His bosses should get some sense of perspective.

“Employers have a responsibility to protect the rights of their staff – and that includes their Christian staff.

“One set of rights should not trump another. It looks to me like there has been some sort of witch hunt against Mr Smith because of his Christian views.”