Judge rules human rights don't apply to Christian Facebook case

A Christian demoted by employers over comments he made about gay marriage on his Facebook page has been told he cannot appeal to human rights arguments in his defence.

Disciplinary action was taken against Adrian Smith, a housing manager at Trafford Housing Trust (THT), last year over an exchange on Facebook relating to gay marriage.

In February last year, Mr Smith posted a link to a BBC news story entitled “Gay church marriages get go ahead”, and added his own comment, “an equality too far”.

One colleague responded by asking him if his comment meant that he did not approve of gay marriages, to which Mr Smith replied: “I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church. The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women. If the state wants to offer civil marriage to the same sex then that is up to the state; but the state shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience."

The colleague brought the comments to the attention of THT, which decided to discipline Mr Smith despite the comments being made on his personal Facebook page, outside of working hours.

He was subsequently demoted from his position as housing manager and his salary was reduced by 40 per cent. His appeal against the decision was unsuccessful.

District Judge Charles Khan at Manchester County Court ruled this morning that Mr Smith's legal challenge cannot rely on his human rights.

Although Mr Smith will continue his legal action, he will have to do so on the grounds of breach of contract. The case is likely to be heard in the summer.

It is being financed by The Christian Institute, a national charity that defends the religious liberty of Christians.

A spokesman said: “This ruling, while not fatal to Mr Smith’s case, is deeply concerning. It reinforces the widely-held perception that Christians are not afforded the same human rights as others.

“If the shoe were on the other foot, if an employee had been disciplined for advocating gay marriage, it is inconceivable that human rights arguments wouldn’t apply.

“This ruling is particularly relevant at the present time, as the Government is planning to redefine marriage. Many people who believe in traditional marriage are worried that they will be penalised for their beliefs.”