LONDON — A U.K. magistrate who 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 been granted an appeal of an adverse ruling finding that he was not the subject of discrimination.
According to the religious liberties organization Christian Concern, Justice Tim Kerr of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London opined that the lower employment tribunal “had failed to adequately investigate whether Richard [Page] had suffered either direct or indirect discrimination on account of his faith, and permission [to appeal] was also granted on grounds of victimization.”
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.
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 adversely ruled in October that he was not the subject of discrimination. He consequently pursued permission to appeal.
“My desire to do the best for the child has been the paramount consideration throughout my time as a magistrate on the family panel. Yet by living out this belief, I have been drawn into a much bigger battle about my freedom, and the freedom of Christians more broadly, to express biblical truth in the public square,” Page said in a statement prior to the hearing on Monday.
“To my dismay, I have discovered the appalling anti-Christian attitude prevalent throughout much of the establishment,” he added. “It is deeply shocking that someone like me, who cares deeply about justice and freedom, and who has spent my whole life working to serve the community out of love for Jesus Christ, should now be punished in this way.”
After being granted permission to appeal the employment tribunal ruling this week, Page requested that Christians would pray that whatever the outcome of his case, that God would be glorified above all.
“We always say that we’re here to glorify God, not here to look after me. I ask people to pray that whatever happens, that it actually does glorify God,” he said in a video recorded by Christian Concern.