Pastor Who Lost Job for Warning Parents About LGBTQ Events Finally Gets Day in Court
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A U.K. Christian pastor who was forced out of his part-time job as a primary school caretaker almost three years ago after he posted a tweet warning Christians and children against supporting local LGBTQ pride events, recently had his case heard in front of an employment tribunal in Cambridge.
According to the Christian Legal Centre, a legal ministry of the watchdog group Christian Concern, the tweet resulted in a social media witch hunt which ultimately forced him out of his caretaker job. That's when Pastor Keith Waters, 55, filed a lawsuit against the Active Learning Trust which runs the school.
In 2016, Waters went to work part-time as a caretaker at the Isle of Ely Primary School as he was pastoring his local evangelical Church, Ely New Connexions Church.
Waters had an agreement with the school that if there was a conflict with his job as a pastor, his pastoral job would take priority.
From the outset, he said that he would "be unequivocal in publicly stating the Christian doctrine on various issues, some of which may be unpopular," according to Christian Concern.
On June 1, 2019, at the start of Pride Month, Waters tweeted: "A reminder that Christians should not support or attend LGBTQ 'Pride Month' events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children."
Screenshot of Waters' June 1, 2019 tweet. Courtesy: Christian Concern.
Waters said in a statement before his hearing that his intention for his tweet was to address and warn Christians about LGBTQ pride events across the U.K. as they often involve nudity, people in sadomasochistic outfits, and displays of an overtly sexual nature.
He believes LGBTQ pride events conflict with Christian beliefs on human sexuality and are harmful, especially for young children who often attend such events or are encouraged to attend.
Following his now-deleted single tweet, Waters said he and his family were threatened on social media and even received the attention of the local media. One journalist accused him of attacking the local LGBTQ community in Ely ahead of the scheduled pride events that month.
Another journalist even tried to get him to apologize for the tweet, but Waters refused. Two days later, a story about his tweet was on the front page of the Cambridge Evening News, and a series of coordinated threats and backlash on social media began, he alleged.
Waters said the harassment became so bad there were even instances where his wife answered the door to their home only to find funeral directors who had been sent to arrange his "funeral." Real estate agents also contacted him about selling their home since they had been told he and his family would be moving "in a hurry."
Then the school's headmaster told him he was being investigated for bringing the school "into disrepute" after receiving a handful of complaints.
One letter to the school falsely claimed that Waters' tweet called for "violence against people who support the Ely Pride Festival," according to Christian Concern. An anonymous teacher also claimed that his tweet fell "within the British government's definition of extremism" and that action must be taken against him.
Up until this point, Waters was a well-liked and respected member of the school's staff. His final job performance appraisal described him as "an asset to the school," according to his attorneys.
Following the investigation, Waters was told that his tweet was "highly inappropriate and offensive," that he had brought the school into disrepute and broken the code of conduct. He was then issued a final written warning.
Waters resigned his position at the school after working there for almost two and a half years. In March of 2020, he also resigned from the New Connexions Church but remained to preach online until September of that year before moving to the town of Carshalton, according to The Ely Standard.
The newspaper reported Helen Davies, who was head of Isle of Ely Primary School, described the June 2019 comments to the employment tribunal, as an "unprovoked attack." But she said the subsequent investigation and disciplinary action against Waters was "never, ever, ever" about his religion.
Davies told the tribunal it was because he had broken the school's policies.
"Anyone who had tweeted something - it doesn't matter who they are, what their role is, what their beliefs are - if they tweet something that actually then causes offense and brings the school into disrepute, they have broken the codes of conduct and the policies that exist within the school," she said.
"It doesn't matter whether I agreed with him or didn't agree with him, the point of the disciplinary is, 'Were these codes of conduct broken?' and that is it," she claimed. "It was never, ever, ever about his religion."
"He did say to me that there had been an extreme amount of hostility to him in the wider community. He told me he had death threats," Davies told the hearing, according to The Standard.
The tribunal will announce its verdict at a later date.
Before his hearing, Waters told Christian Concern, "The whole episode left me in emotional turmoil and has taken a lasting toll on me and my family. In 37 years of employment, I had never been treated in such an uncaring and hostile way. I was left with the choice of resigning or being silenced and unable to express my beliefs as a Christian pastor."
"I had lots of parents pulling me to the side telling me that they supported me, but they wouldn't dare say so out of fear that the social media mob would also turn on them," he said.
"Being given a final warning meant that I would not be able to do the things I do as a pastor, which is standing up for the truth of the Bible," Waters said. "I'm not doing this because I want to sue the school, but because I believe it's the right thing to do."
In a statement, Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said, "What happened to Keith Waters is the latest in a long line of cases where honest, kind, normal people are subjected to harassment and intimidation for expressing moderate, mainstream Christian views on sexual ethics."
"We live in a world where even questioning the LGBTQ agenda can land you in serious trouble," Williams noted.
"Despite an abundance of psychological studies concluding that children exposed to sexually explicit content at an early age are more likely to develop disorders and addictions, there are many articles online that encourage parents to bring their children to Pride parades," she explained.
"Keith's story is part of a cancel culture where issues, such as LGBTQ pride, cannot be questioned or critiqued without individuals being silenced, vilified or worse," Williams added.
Watch Keith Waters' story below in this video provided by Christian Concern:
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