The decision to demote and slash the pay of a Christian housing manager for his comments about civil partnerships is “reverse persecution” and “bullying”, a homosexual journalist says.
Matthew Parris – who writes for The Times and is also a former MP – was referring to the case of Adrian Smith.
Mr Smith was penalised by bosses at Trafford Housing Trust for commenting on his private Facebook page that churches shouldn’t be forced to register civil partnerships.
Mr Parris said: “This kind of reverse persecution is an embarrassment to those of us who want to end persecution.
“Gay rights campaigners have made astonishing progress in recent years — to the point when we need to remind ourselves that other people have rights too, and that we campaign against bullying, not for it.”
The columnist backed comments from homosexual activist Peter Tatchell who had branded the actions of Mr Smith’s employers as “excessive and disproportionate”.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the Government’s Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, also said he agreed with Mr Tatchell’s comments on Adrian Smith.
Mr Smith was demoted and given a 40 per cent pay cut for using his personal Facebook page to post the comment “an equality too far” in relation to an article on the registration of civil partnerships in churches.
He also said on Facebook: “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”.
He is taking Trafford Housing Trust to court, backed by The Christian Institute.
The issue has been noted in Parliament by Stewart Jackson MP, who described the actions of the Trust as “despicable” and raised questions about its public funding.
Mr Smith has also received the backing of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. Its chief executive said: “Trafford Housing may have acted with the best of intentions here, but we believe they have overreacted and very much hope that they will reinstate Adrian Smith.”
When the story emerged last month, Guardian writer Ally Fogg said: “If the trust was concerned about its reputation for inclusiveness and tolerance, it couldn’t have got things more badly wrong.”