An MP yesterday hit out at the demotion of a Christian over comments he made on Facebook about civil partnerships – and raised questions about his employers’ public funding.
Stewart Jackson MP described Trafford Housing Trust’s decision to demote Adrian Smith, and slash his salary, as “despicable”.
The MP also asked: “Should we be putting public money into an organisation that is, effectively, propagating state-sponsored intolerance?”
Mr Jackson becomes the latest person to criticise the Trust’s actions following comments from, among others, homosexual activist Peter Tatchell and a writer in the New Statesman.
The case centres around comments Mr Smith made on his private Facebook page outside of work time.
He linked to a news article on civil partnerships in churches, adding the comment “an equality too far”.
His employers demoted him from his managerial position and cut his salary by 40 per cent.
Stewart Jackson, the MP for Peterborough, noted Mr Tatchell’s comments opposing Mr Smith’s treatment and called for a debate on freedom of speech.
Responding for the Government Sir George Young said: “I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and freedom of worship.
“Of course people should obey the law of the country. I will draw this incident to the attention of the Minister for Housing and Local Government, to see whether there is any action to be taken either by him or the Housing Corporation.”
The Minister for Housing is Grant Shapps, who has previously expressed his support for a Christian electrician who faced the sack from a housing association for having a palm cross in his company van.
In comments earlier this week, homosexual activist Peter Tatchell said Trafford Housing Trust was being “excessive and disproportionate” in its actions.
Mr Tatchell commented: “Mr Smith voiced his opinion in a calm, non-abusive manner. He was not threatening or intimidating.”
Writing on the New Statesman website, Nelson Jones said: “Unless there were aggravating factors (and Trafford Housing Trust has declined to go into much detail), this looks like an overreaction. It looks vindictive.”
Reflecting on the case on The Guardian’s website Ally Fogg criticised the treatment which Mr Smith had received for expressing “some relatively mild views”.
He said: “If the trust was concerned about its reputation for inclusiveness and tolerance, it couldn’t have got things more badly wrong.”