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Muzzled, Fired, and Reported as a Terrorist: UK Chaplain Loses Case in LGBTQ Dispute

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An ordained Church of England (CofE) chaplain, who was fired from his job and secretly reported to the UK government's terrorist watchdog for a moderate sermon in a school chapel on identity politics, will appeal an employment tribunal ruling handed down this week.

After being fired, Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall had taken his employer, Trent College in Nottingham, to court for discrimination, harassment, victimization, and unfair dismissal. He's being represented by the Christian Legal Centre, the legal ministry of the religious freedom watchdog Christian Concern.

Randall described the latest ruling against him as a "blow for free speech and Christian freedoms."

"I am extremely disappointed at this result. It is a personal blow, but more importantly, it is a blow for all those who believe in freedom of speech, in freedom of religion, and in an educational system which opens the minds of young people rather than narrowing them or imposing an ideology that many or most in our society find troubling," he said in a statement. 

"It is a foundational principle of a truly democratic society that the free exchange of ideas is good for everyone," Randall said. 

"In this case, mainstream Christian beliefs about marriage are held by a minority in society, albeit a substantial one. They are hardly extreme: they arise out of God's deep love for all people, and his desire for full human flourishing. They deserve to be taken seriously," he noted. 

"On the other hand, the beliefs of gender identity ideology are themselves held by a minority and are controversial, to say the least. They also deserve to be taken seriously. However, it cannot be right for a school to teach them as if they are undisputable facts, and to shut down those who wish to take an open thoughtful approach to the well-being of young people," Randall explained. 

"The Tribunal's ruling makes the free exchange of ideas in schools, and in wider society much harder. I understood that the whole point of the Equality Act is to protect minorities. It feels today as if Christians are one minority who are not afforded that protection, and I believe that is wrong on every level," he concluded. 

Randall, 50, from Derbyshire, was ordained by the Church of England in 2006. He had been employed by the school for four years until he was dismissed in 2019. 

As CBN News reported in September of 2022, he told the East Midlands Employment Tribunal that the school had shown "absolutely no regard for the concern {he} had for those upset or confused by the implementation of Educate and Celebrate" – a group that provides training "to embed gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation into the fabric" of their organizations.

According to The Daily Mail, Randall told the tribunal in a written statement, that it was clear that the charity's stated objective was to promote LGBT+ inclusion in schools. However, he said E&C went beyond "a natural stance of inclusivity into the active promotion of ideas which he believed amounted to identity politics."

He also claimed much of E&C's program appeared to him to be "contrary to Christian teaching."

Randall told the tribunal about a September 2018 meeting at the school when representatives of E&C urged staff to chant "smash heteronormativity" – the concept that heterosexuality is the normal form of sexual orientation – the BBC reported. 

Randall said he did not participate in the chanting. 

He was told by his supervisors at the school that they "would not simply implement the entire Educate and Celebrate program as presented, but would make selective use of whatever fitted with the Trent ethos." 

He later discovered that the school intended to implement the entire program. 

The chaplain said there were several concerns among the school's community that were brought to his attention about the program. 

"Some objected to elements on religious grounds; others found the aggressively political approach concerning, feeling that beliefs were being forced on them; others were simply confused about what they could, or could not, believe," he said. 

According to Randall, when one child asked "How come we are told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?" he decided to respond by carefully writing an explanatory, moderate sermon giving the Christian viewpoint and emphasizing the importance of "respecting those with whom we disagree."

He gave the sermon twice during chapel, once with minor alterations, and spoke to various staff and pupils ages 11 to 17, according to the Christian Legal Centre. 

In his sermon, Randall said, "You do not have to accept the ideas of LGBT activists."

Even though he knew it might "ruffle a few feathers," he told the tribunal he didn't expect any complaints about it, the BBC reported. 

The attorney representing the school asked Randall if he was being deliberately provocative and undermining the program the school was implementing.

"The school has no place telling pupils they have to accept an ideology. I would say that even applies to Christianity," he replied. 

"I don't think it ever occurred to me that anyone would think that was offensive," Randall added.

Reported as a Terrorist to Government Watchdog

However, within weeks of presenting the sermon, the school told Randall he had violated the school's LGBT agenda. He was first told that the school contended that gender identity was a protected characteristic. Second, they claimed that psychology textbooks say there are three genders. But the real problem, according to school officials, was not what Randall had said but how the sermon made people feel.

During his disciplinary meeting, Randall was given notes that showed he had been reported to Prevent, the U.K. government's counter-terrorism watchdog, as a religious extremist. He was later told the watchdog had returned the school's report, declining to investigate. 

Church Guidance Used Against Him at Tribunal

Randall had repeatedly told the school and the diocese during their investigations that his beliefs on marriage and human sexuality, were based on the CofE's public liturgy, especially the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon law which states that marriage is "in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman."

Following a legal hearing at East Midlands Employment Tribunal in September 2022, however, Employment Judge Victoria Butler ruled against Randal. As has become standard practice in Christian freedoms cases in the U.K., Judge Butler used the CofE's own "Valuing All God's Children" guidance for schools against Bernard. Judge Butler made the point that the CofE cites E&C as a recognized "resource" in the guidance.

Butler suggested that Bernard had "misconceived" what E&C is and that he had had "an extreme reaction" to their involvement within the Christian school.

"The Claimant {Bernard} takes an extreme view of E&C which bears no resemblance to the reality of its purpose and implementation, which was aimed simply at creating an inclusive environment for all," Butler said. "We saw and heard no evidence that came anywhere close to supporting the Claimant's view that E&C would indoctrinate pupils in such a way."

In regards to Bernard's sermon, she concluded that: "The duty to safeguard pupils from the risk of harm and the requirement to comply with the Independent Schools Standards Regulator outweigh the Claimant's right to express his beliefs in the manner he did in a school environment."

Despite the sermon being moderate, the judge repeated a conclusion based on a handful of complaints, which bears no resemblance to what Bernard said, that: "We have already found that the message taken away by pupils was that it was wrong to be LGBT+ and okay to discriminate."

However, Randall had explicitly stated, "no one should be discriminated against simply for who he or she is: that's a Christian value," and also repeatedly emphasized the importance of respecting those with whom we disagree and that, "there is no excuse for personal attacks or abusive language," according to the Christian Legal Centre. 

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Judge Butler also said the school safeguarding officer who reported the chaplain to the terrorist watchdog was following her experience in her field to be cautious. 

Butler also said that the officer "was concerned that the Claimant's deeply held belief that Canon law took precedence over the welfare of pupils and staff fell under the remit of Prevent."

In a statement, Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "We cannot permit this judgment to stand. It is neither a rational judgment nor an impartial one. It reads as a promotional piece for Queer theory."

"This judgment is tragic for Dr. Randall but we are encouraging him and all faithful clergy and lay members in the Church of England who believe in biblical truth to stand firm. This outcome is not the end of the matter. We will not rest until this kind of censorship of biblical teaching ends," she said. 

"The message from this judgment to Christians is you cannot disagree or express disagreement with LGBT teaching – you must comply, celebrate and promote. It is not enough to be tolerant and liberal in the original sense of those words. You have to actively promote and celebrate," Williams noted. 

"Extreme LGBT groups, like Educate and Celebrate, who want to confuse and influence young children with extreme LGBT ideology and 'smash heteronormativity', should never be allowed into UK schools. Schools and the CofE are putting thousands of children at risk of long-term damage if the influence of these groups continues," she explained. 

"Bernard is kind, intelligent, and is not a safeguarding risk to anyone. It is the rise of LGBT ideology and activism within the Church of England that is the 'risk' too good and faithful clergy," Williams said. 

"For a moderate and considered sermon by a CofE clergy, reflecting the CofE's own teaching on marriage in a CofE chapel in a CofE school, Bernard was reported a terrorist, blacklisted as a safeguarding risk to children, and was hounded out of his employment," she continued. 

"It has been appalling how the CofE hierarchy has stood back and watched one of its own clergy being crushed by the prevailing secular orthodoxy on human sexuality," she said. 

"We will fight for justice for as long as it takes," Williams concluded. 

Watch Christian Concern's video about Dr. Randall's case below:

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of