A Christian who was demoted and subjected to a 40 per cent pay cut over comments he made about civil partnerships on Facebook has received the backing of the Government’s Housing Minister.
Grant Shapps agreed with homosexual activist Peter Tatchell who had branded the disciplinary action given out to Christian Adrian Smith as “excessive and disproportionate”.
Mr Smith was disciplined by Trafford Housing Trust 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.
Mr Smith 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”.
Bosses at the Trust ruled his comments had damaged the organisation’s reputation and amounted to gross misconduct. They demoted him from his managerial post and slashed his pay.
But Mr Tatchell is among a number of critics who have hit out at the Trust’s actions. He has made clear that while he does not agree with Mr Smith’s opinions, he defends his freedom of speech.
Grant Shapps said: “I agree with Mr Tatchell’s sentiments.”
Mr Shapps’ comments came in a letter to Stewart Jackson MP – who had raised the issue in Parliament and questioned the Trust’s public funding.
Mr Shapps added, in a handwritten note at the end of the letter: “Well done for highlighting this case”.
Mr Smith is taking his employer to court, backed by The Christian Institute. Spokesman Mike Judge said: “We’re not talking about a Christian who shoves his opinions down the throats of his colleagues.
“Mr Smith made completely tame and inoffensive remarks outside of work time on his personal Facebook page.
“The comments certainly don’t amount to gross misconduct, which is usually reserved for things like theft or fraud. His bosses should get some sense of perspective.”
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.”
And later in October a New Statesman writer said the Trust’s actions look “vindictive”.
Barrister Neil Addison, also speaking out on the case, has warned that the “obsession with hate crime and hate speech has created a new generation of publicly paid heresy-hunters”.