A judge has today ruled that bosses at a housing trust were wrong to demote a manager who said gay weddings in churches would be “an equality too far”.
Adrian Smith, a Christian, made the remark on his personal Facebook page, which was not visible to the general public, outside work time.
But bosses at Trafford Housing Trust, near Manchester, took action against Mr Smith saying the comments amounted to ‘gross misconduct’ and could bring the Trust into disrepute.
Mr Smith went to court with the financial backing of The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund, which exists to protect the civil liberty of Christians.
It emerged in evidence that the Trust was worried it could lose a gay rights charter award unless it took action against Mr Smith.
But today the judge, Mr Justice Briggs, said the Trust had no right to demote Mr Smith over his Facebook comments, and ruled that the Trust had breached the terms of his contract.
Mr Smith says he is delighted to have won the case, but he is worried others may be in the firing line if the Government pushes ahead with its plans to redefine marriage.
He said: “I have won today. But what will tomorrow bring? I am fearful that, if marriage is redefined, there will be more cases like mine – and if the law of marriage changes people like me may not win in court.
“Does the Prime Minister want to create a society where people like me, people who believe in traditional marriage, are treated as outcasts? That may not be his intention, but that’s what will happen.
“The Prime Minister should think very carefully about the impact of redefining marriage on ordinary people.”
In his ruling today the judge said: “In my judgment Mr Smith’s postings about gay marriage in church are not, viewed objectively, judgmental, disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence.
“As to their content, they are widely held views frequently to be heard on radio and television, or read in the newspapers.” He also rejected the suggestion that Mr Smith’s comments could be viewed as homophobic.
The judge concluded: “Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct, and then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40 per cent reduction in salary.
“The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory.”
For technical legal reasons relating to contract law, Mr Smith was only awarded less than £100 in damages.
The judge commented on this, saying: “A conclusion that his damages are limited to less than £100 leaves the uncomfortable feeling that justice has not been done to him in the circumstances.”