KENT, U.K. — A U.K. magistrate that was removed from office last year for telling the media that he believes it is best for adoptive children to be placed with a mother and father will now file suit after also being prohibited from returning to his position on the board of the National Health Service (NHS) Trust.
“Richard is being driven from public service simply for expressing the widely-held, lawful belief that children ideally need a mother and a father. First, the magistracy, now the Health Service. Where will this end?” Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing Richard Page, said in a statement on Tuesday announcing the legal challenge.
As previously reported, Page, who identifies as a Christian, had been a judge for 15 years and sat on the Family Panel of the Kent Central Magistrates Court. He has also worked in mental health for 20 years and is a foster parent.
In 2014, Page was reprimanded for disagreeing with his colleagues in a homosexual adoption case, being told that he was wrongfully being “influenced by his religious beliefs and not by the evidence.” The magistrate stated that he could not agree that placing a child in a same-sex home was “in the best interest of the child.”
Page was subsequently ordered to undergo re-education training due to his dissent.
Last year, in speaking with the BBC for a segment about religion being stifled in public life, Page told reporters about the incident and why he could not concur with his colleagues.
“My responsibility as a magistrate, as I saw it, was to do what I considered best for the child,” he said in the televised segment, “and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and woman who were the adopted parents.”
As a result, the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) announced that Page had been removed from the bench over his statement to the BBC.
“The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice found Mr Page’s comments would have caused a reasonable person to conclude he was biased and prejudiced against single sex adopters; they considered this to be serious misconduct which brought the magistracy into disrepute,” a spokesman said in a statement. “They have therefore removed Mr Page from the magistracy.”
Following the matter, Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) Chairman Andrew Ling contacted the UK NHS Trust Development Authority and requested that he be suspended as a non-executive director of the board. According to its website, KMPT “provide[s] mental health, learning disability and substance misuse services as well as other specialist services to 1.7 million people across Kent and Medway.”
“The recent publicity you have courted is likely to further undermine the confidence staff, particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) staff, have in the leadership of the Trust,” Ling wrote. “Links between the stigma often associated with being LGBT and poor mental health are well established. It is vital that patients and local population are confident that KMPT will challenge stigma or discrimination and treat everyone fairly and impartially.”
Page was suspended from his role, and in August of this year, he was informed that a panel considered whether or not he should be permitted to return to his role at the NHS Trust. While the panel received approximately 6,500 comments in favor of Page and only one objection, the decision was still unanimously “no,” that “it was not in the interests of the health service for you to serve as a non-executive director in the NHS.”
The panel said that Page’s expression of his beliefs was “likely to have had a negative impact on the confidence of staff, patients and the public in you as a local NHS leader.” It virtually barred him from serving in the future, as he received correspondence advising that “[t]he panel also agreed that the adverse impact on your credibility would continue into the future.”
“This is another in a growing list of cases where Christians are being squeezed out of different areas of public life simply for expressing their beliefs,” Williams said on Tuesday in announcing that a legal challenge is now in the works. “This is the harsh reality of how the current ‘equality and diversity’ framework is being applied and imposed. It is not bringing people together but driving them apart. The whole framework needs to be overhauled.”