Christians against a godless state? Another evangelical takes his conscience to court
An evangelical Christian former magistrate who publicly opposed gay adoption has been accused at a tribunal of being more concerned about his 'publicity campaign' than his position as an NHS trust director.
Richard Page claimed it was better for a child to be brought up by both a man and a woman when he heard an adoption application brought by a same-sex couple in 2014.
He was struck from the bench following a televised interview in which he said it was better for heterosexuals to adopt. He was also removed as a non-executive director of the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT).
Page, from Headcorn in Kent, is now suing the NHS over his dismissal.
During his interview, Page said: 'I feel what's best for the child is what is natural, a man and a woman.'
Asked in the tribunal by the legal representative for the NHS, David Massarella, if he considered his position with the trust when he gave the interview, Page said 'No'.
Massarella said: 'You were more concerned with your publicity campaign than in your position in the trust.'
Page conceded that he would be 'likely' to do more media interviews after the tribunal because 'what happened to me I consider to be wrong'. He added: 'I am not homophobic, but was accused of being so.'
In the letter reporting the conclusions of the NHS dismissal, the panel said that he failed to understand how statements made in public by him would affect the public perception of the trust and the confidence of staff, and noted that he showed no remorse for his statement.
A senior NHS source told Christian Today that the organisation had received abusive letters about homosexuality in relation to the case, and said that Page was trying to shift attention away from his behaviour and onto alleged discrimination over his Christian faith.
Page has blamed his predicament on 'political correctness'. He said this week: 'It is quite extraordinary that I should have been dismissed not only from the Magistracy for holding this view, which I fully believe to be in the best interests of the child, but from the NHS as well.
'It seems to me that if this kind of political correctness continues, Christians will no longer be able to hold positions of public office unless they capitulate their deeply-held and once-mainstream beliefs to the new liberal orthodoxy.'
Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Page, said: 'Who wins from this situation? Society is being deprived of a long-standing, sacrificial public servant, simply because he has expressed what many people believe about family life.
'This case is another in a long line of cases that demonstrates the intolerance of our illiberal elites. Far from promoting diversity they punish people like Richard who serves his community so well.
'This case shows the ugly face of the LGBT lobby that is incapable of tolerating anyone brave enough to challenge their lifestyle. The lobby will not be satisfied until they have eliminated any whiff of dissent in public life. They are the bullies.'
The Christian Legal Centre and Christian Concern have a record of fighting, and losing, cases of alleged discrimination against Christians in the UK.
Last March, a prison chaplain who was accused of reading 'homophobic' Bible verses to prisoners lost his claim for unfair dismissal.
Barry Trayhorn, a Pentecostal minister, said he was discriminated against when he was reprimanded for the Bible verses he read to prisoners at HMP Littlehey where he worked as a gardener and led services in the chapel as a volunteer.
He said the passages were about God's love and he had wanted to explain the concept of forgiveness to the prisoners.
In one service he read a passage from 1 Corinthians 6 which condemns homosexual behaviour.
This week, Trayhorn had his appeal rejected.
Last April, a female NHS therapist who was disciplined after she gave a Christian book to a Muslim colleague lost her appeal.
The Christian Legal Centre warned that the ruling against Victoria Wasteney 'raises serious questions as to whether any Christian in a position such as Victoria's will be protected, if they manifest their faith in the workplace'.
Her Honour Judge Eady QC upheld an employment tribunal's ruling that the NHS had acted reasonably in disciplining Victoria for inviting her colleague to church-related events, praying with her and giving her a Christian book.
Wasteny, head of forensic occupational therapy at a London hospital, was suspended for nine months and then received a written warning following allegations of 'harassment and bullying'.
Also in April 2016, a Christian student who was expelled from university for quoting the Bible on homosexuality lost his appeal on the decision.
Felix Ngole, aged 38 and married with four children, was asked to leave the University of Sheffield after he wrote a post on Facebook opposing gay marriage and quoting the Bible. He was in the second year of a Masters degree in social work.
He was removed from the course after a Fitness to Practise Committee decided his post could have 'caused offence' to some people. He quoted a passage from Leviticus on homosexuality and expressed support for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licences.
And in March this year, a Christian nurse fired for gross misconduct after patients complained she talked more about God than about their operations appealed against her dismissal with the support of the Christian Legal Centre.
Sarah Kuteh lost her job at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, after eight 'extremely vulnerable' patients facing surgery submitted complaints against her behaviour.
The nurse told one cancer patient facing surgery he had a better chance of survival if he prayed to God.
Her lawyer told the tribunal she had just been acting out of compassion.
Pavel Stroilov said: 'A nurse without compassion would be unworthy of the name. On top of performing her immediate duties, a good nurse would try and find kind words to say to her patient.'
But the chair of the hospital trust's appeal hearing, Victoria Leivers-Carruth, said Kuteh was dismissed because she used one-on-one time with patients to 'impose her religious belief'.
She said: 'We did not believe that Mrs Kuteh was being disciplined because she was a Christian.
'It was apparent to us that Mrs Kuteh was disciplined because she had engaged in conversations about religion that were unwanted by patients and contrary to her line manager's instructions.'
Sarah Collins, general manager for medicine at Darent Valley Hospital, said despite repeated warnings she had 'persisted with questioning patients on religious grounds'.
Kuteh's 'spirituality blurred the professional boundary' between her and patients, she said.
Tribunal judge Martin Kurrein reserved judgment.
Whether Page will have more success than those previously supported by the Christian Legal Centre remains to be seen.