Kristie Higgs was sacked for gross misconduct for posting on Facebook in her own capacity widely held concerns about the sexualisation of children through sex education in schools. Her concerns were motivated by her Christian faith and indeed were an expression of that faith.
Her concerns are now so mainstream that they are even shared by the Prime Minister who has commissioned an independent review into sex education in schools. It is clearly unjust for a school worker to be sacked for manifesting her Christian beliefs in this way.
But the Church of England (CofE) doesn't see it that way. Higgs lost her case at the Employment Tribunal so we appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. We were very surprised to find that the Archbishops' Council decided to intervene at this stage. Why on this case at this time? There have been many high-profile cases over recent years as well as countless others issues raised in schools with no public profile which they have failed to address. We were suspicious about their motives and it was right to be so.
At best their motives appear naïve, at worse reckless and malicious. The CofE intervention was at pains to emphasise that it was "strictly neutral" between the parties. How can this be? Does the CofE not have a view on the merits of sex education and the outrageous sexualisation of children that is going on? Is the CofE really 'strictly neutral' on whether a Christian teacher can be sacked for manifesting her Christian beliefs?
But it got worse. The CofE intervention actually worked against Kristie in court. The CofE argued about "the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate manifestation of belief." This clearly implied that Kristie's expression could be deemed 'inappropriate'. It also made comments about the "tone of the manifestation" and "the manner and nature of the manifestation" and so on. All this is designed to confuse the fundamental issue and work against free speech.
In case the intentions of the CofE were not already clear, the Rev Dr Malcom Brown, the Church's Director of Faith and Public Life has now commented publicly about the case. In the interview he claims that Christians are seen as 'aggressive' in court. He claimed that cases against Christians who have been summarily dismissed have "been fought between binary positions with little nuance." He even claimed to have been informed that the judiciary was "increasingly frustrated with the way these cases were being argued in the courts."
Where is the sympathy for the Christians who have actually lost their jobs for manifesting their Christian beliefs here? What about the very real aggression from employers in these cases which results in Christians being hounded out of their professions? Who is the real aggressor and who is the real victim? It has taken Kristie five years to get to this place; she is the kindest, most softly spoken person you are likely to meet and was greatly loved by the students she served.
Most people can see through the absurdity of the CofE acting against Christians in court. High profile campaigner Maya Forstater, who is actively campaigning for clarity on sex in law and policy in the UK, tweeted her response to Rev Brown's comments. She tweeted: "Church of England sees Christians who stick to their faith as 'aggressive'. With friends like these ..." Precisely.
Sadly this is not the first time that the CofE has worked against Christians in court. The notorious Valuing All God's Children CofE guidance for schools has been used against Christians three times in court. One of these times was against one of their own clergymen, another warm hearted, generous man with a keen intellect who lost his job for preaching an orthodox sermon in a CofE chapel in a CofE school. The CofE went on to brand him a safeguarding risk because of his Christian beliefs.
You can't makeup this stuff.. The CofE is actually turning against Christians who stick to their faith - just as Forstater said. By intervening in the way that they did in such a high handed and arrogant manner, they display their lack of understanding of the times they are living in.
The CofE is actively betraying faithful Christians. What more can be said? Lord have mercy.
Andrea Williams is chief executive of Christian Concern.