Christian teaching assistant sacked after sharing trans and sex ed concerns on Facebook wins appeal

Kristie Higgs.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A Christian teaching assistant who was sacked after sharing two Facebook posts raising concerns about compulsory sex education and transgenderism has won an appeal against an employment tribunal ruling that upheld her dismissal. 

Kristie Higgs was investigated and subsequently sacked for gross misconduct by her school in 2019 after sharing the posts on her personal Facebook account.

The first Facebook post invited friends and family to sign a petition challenging the government's plans to introduce Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) to children in primary schools.

The second post linked to an article about the spread of trans-affirming children's books in American schools, which she captioned, "This is happening in our primary schools now." 

Her sacking was upheld by the Bristol Employment Tribunal in 2020 on the grounds that her posts could be perceived by some people as homophobic or transphobic.

That ruling has now been overturned but the case has been remitted to an employment tribunal for reconsideration.

Handing down her judgment today, President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Mrs Justice Eady, said that the previous verdict had failed to assess whether the investigation into Mrs Higgs and her sacking "were prescribed by law and were necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, recognising the essential nature of [Mrs Higgs's] rights to freedom of belief and freedom of expression".

Mrs Justice Eady said the fresh hearing must decide whether the school's investigation and sacking of Mrs Higgs "were because of, or related to, the manifestation of the claimant's protected beliefs, or were due to a justified objection to the manner of that manifestation, in respect of which there was a clear legal basis for the claimant's rights to freedom of belief and expression to be limited to the extent necessary for the legitimate protection of the rights of others".

The school has claimed that it dismissed Mrs Higgs because of the language in her Facebook posts and not because of her Christian beliefs. 

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which has defended Mrs Higgs for the last four years, welcomed today's ruling and said that it "sets a legal precedent" protecting employees' expression of faith. However, it expressed disappointment that she was not fully exonerated.

Welcoming the outcome, Mrs Higgs said, "From the beginning, despite the many attempts by the school to suggest otherwise, this has always been about my Christian beliefs and me being discriminated against for expressing them in my own time.

"I will never forget the moment, shaking and tearful, that I was ordered to leave the school premises after my Christian beliefs were aligned with Nazism.

"Since I lost the job I loved, there has been so many disturbing revelations about transgender ideology in schools and children being taught inappropriate sex education. I feel so justified and vindicated for sharing and expressing the concerns that I did.

"Christian parents must have the freedom to bring their children up in line with their Christian beliefs. I want young children to be protected from transgender ideology and Christians must also to be able to share their opinions and beliefs without fear of losing their jobs."