A barrister has warned of a “new generation of publicly paid heresy-hunters” as he spoke out on the case of a Christian who was demoted over comments he made on Facebook about civil partnerships.
Neil Addison warned the “obsession with hate crime and hate speech” has created such “heresy-hunters”.
Mr Addison was speaking in light of Adrian Smith who has been demoted and had his salary slashed by 40 per cent because he commented online that registering civil partnerships in churches was “an equality too far”.
Mr Addison, who is the author of a text book on hate crime legislation, said Mr Smith’s case is “only the latest and possibly the most extreme example of the fact that British public bodies have ceased to have any respect whatsoever for the principle of freedom of speech”.
He also commented: “When I was a child, people in England used to say ‘I can say what I like, it’s a free country’.”
Adrian Smith is taking his employer, Trafford Housing Trust, to court for interference with his rights to free speech and religious liberty; and for breach of contract.
He is being supported in his legal action by The Christian Institute, a national charity that defends the religious liberty of Christians.
Mr Smith made the comments outside work time on his personal Facebook page, but his bosses at Trafford Housing Trust said it damaged the Trust’s reputation and amounted to gross misconduct.
They demoted him from his managerial post and drastically cut his pay.
Since news emerged of Mr Smith’s treatment, commentators at three of Britain’s biggest newspapers have hit out at the case.
Ally Fogg, writing on The Guardian’s website, said that Trafford Housing Trust “couldn’t have got things more badly wrong”.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph Cristina Odone warned that “secular individualists” were trying to push believers out of the public sphere.
And a Mail on Sunday comment piece accused the Trust of “despotic behavior”.