KENT, U.K. — A U.K. magistrate that was removed from office for telling the media that he believes it is best for adoptive children to be placed with a mother and father, and later also prohibited from returning to his position on the board of the National Health Service (NHS) Trust, has lost a lawsuit seeking reinstatement to the NHS board.
The Croydon Employment Tribunal has ruled that Magistrate Richard Page did not lose his position because of his religious views, but because he did not provide advance notice to the Trust that he was going to be interviewed by the media.
“[T]he act or acts resulting in the Respondent taking action were not the Claimant holding or expressing his views as such, but the Claimant accepting invitations to appear, and then appearing, in the press and on national television, compounded by the fact that he did so without informing the Trust when he had been expressly told to do so,” the three-judge tribunal has ruled.
It also stated, “Had the belief relied on by the Claimant been the wider views expressed in his Good Morning Britain television interview in March 2016, i.e. that ‘homosexual activity’ is wrong, then the tribunal may well have concluded that this was not a belief that was worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
As previously reported, Richard 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.
In 2015, 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 2016, 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.”
Page then took his case to the Croydon Employment Tribunal, which ruled last week that he was not the subject of discrimination. The Christian Legal Centre, which represented page in court, disagreed with the tribunal’s assertion that Page lost his seat on the NHS Trust board because he didn’t provide advance notice about the interview.
“It is clear that appearing on TV would not, in itself, have led to Mr. Page being dismissed,” President Andrea Williams said in a statement. “Had he spoken about the weather, or the plight of the near-extinct white rhino, for example, he would not have found himself on the receiving end of the NHS’ wrath.”
“The Tribunal asserted that Mr. Page’s actions ‘were clearly in conflict with the protection of health,’ which is the NHS Trust’s function,” she continued. “It is ludicrous to suggest that people are not using NHS Kent now because of Mr. Page appearing on Good Morning Britain, or to suggest that Mr Page’s expression of his views had any impact on the ability of NHS Kent to provide health services to the entire community.”
Page has vowed to appeal the ruling.