A housing trust’s decision to demote a Christian after he said on Facebook that gay weddings in churches were “an equality too far” was described as an “extraordinary over-reaction” in court yesterday.
Adrian Smith lost his managerial position and had his salary cut by 40 per cent after his employer, Trafford Housing Trust, said his Facebook comments amounted to gross misconduct.
Yesterday Mr Smith’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, QC, said: “The whole thing is a huge and extraordinary over-reaction”.
Mr Smith is trying to recover his lost earnings, and his case is supported by The Christian Institute, a national charity that protects the civil liberty of Christians.
The court will decide whether the Trust breached Mr Smith’s employment contract and interfered with his right to free speech.
The case is set to conclude today. Judgment is expected at a later date.
It all began on Sunday 13 February 2011 when Mr Smith saw an article on the BBC News website headlined “Gay church marriages get go ahead”.
He linked to the article on his personal Facebook page and added the comment: “an equality too far”.
His Facebook page can only be viewed by friends, and friends of friends, but not by the general public. Some of his colleagues are listed as his Facebook friends.
Two colleagues read the remark and one of them posted a response asking Mr Smith to explain what he meant.
The colleague in question, who was not called to give evidence, has told a national newspaper that she had not tried to entrap Mr Smith.
The case comes amid huge controversy surrounding the Government’s plans to redefine marriage.
If the meaning of marriage changes supporters of traditional marriage say they will be penalised for their beliefs, including in the workplace.
Campaigners on all sides of the gay marriage debate have firmly criticised the Trust’s heavy-handed actions and the former Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, also voiced concerns.