Prominent homosexual campaigner Peter Tatchell has defended the right of Christians to publicly express that homosexuality is wrong.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Tatchell was asked for his views on the case of Felix Ngole, the student social worker expelled from his university for stating online the Bible’s position on homosexuality.
After a three year legal battle, the Court of Appeal found in his favour, saying he had not discriminated against anyone, and that the University of Sheffield acted rashly in removing him from his course.
Asked by presenter Justin Webb whether the university should take Ngole back, Tatchell gave a strong defence of free speech.
He said it is “one of the most important and precious of all human rights, so there has to be a really strong and compelling reason in order to restrict it”.
“In this case, the University essentially said that because Felix Ngole holds a particular point of view, and this point of view might lead to him to discriminate when he became a social worker, that the dismissal was fair and just.
“Now I think that really it is a bit excessive to say that someone should be dismissed from a course on the basis of something they might subsequently do.”
‘Gone too far’
The BBC’s Webb suggested some would be surprised that Tatchell would object to the university acting in a way that they perceived to favour LGBT rights.
He commented: “But actually you’re saying that it is possible that it has gone too far. That we have all gone too far.”
Tatchell responded that to remove someone from a course on the basis of a presumption of what they might do, rather than what they have done, is “a very dangerous route to go down”.
He added: “I think it is perfectly possible that a person can hold a deep religious view that homosexuality is wrong, such as my own mother, but she would never ever discriminate against a gay person. I know that from experience.
“And it is quite possible that Mr Ngole is one such Christian, that he holds a view that homosexuality is wrong but he would not discriminate, and I think in a free society, we have to make that distinction”.
Tatchell previously backed the freedom of Northern Ireland bakery Ashers Baking Company to refuse to decorate a cake with the words ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on it.
Writing in The Guardian in 2016, he said: “In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object.”