KENT — 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 lost his appeal over the matter. The booted judge says that the outcome shows the reality that Christians are living in a “deeply intolerant society.”
An employment appeal tribunal ruled on Wednesday that Richard Page, a judge for 15 years who sat on the Family Panel of the Kent Central Magistrates Court, was not discriminated against when he lost his job for making his remarks to the media. It said that Page’s remarks show that he could not be impartial as a judge.
Page’s removal was “a proportionate limitation upon his right to freedom of expression and as such would be regarded as necessary in a democratic society for maintaining the authority or impartiality of the judiciary,” Justice Akhlaq Choudhury wrote on behalf of the court.
“His statement that it was his responsibility to do what was best for the child and that it was better if it were a man and a woman to be adoptive parents does suggest that he would regard an adoption by parents who do not fit that mold less favorably, irrespective of the evidence before the court and/or the law,” he stated. “That, in our judgment, is potentially a very serious flouting of the judicial oath.”
In a separate ruling, the tribunal also rejected Page’s effort to be reinstated on the board of the NHS.
“I am deeply disappointed that the court has ruled that saying that a child will do better with a mother and a father is proper grounds for dismissal as a magistrate and as a director of an NHS trust,” Page said in a statement. “I’m also disappointed that Mr. Justice Choudhury believes this viewpoint can be separated from my Christian faith.”
“This shows that we are now living in a deeply intolerant society which cannot stand any dissent from politically correct views — even from judges,” he lamented. “I hope that we can appeal this decision and restore freedom of speech across the country.”
As previously reported, Page, who has also worked in mental health for 20 years and is a foster parent, was reprimanded in 2014 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 in 2017 that he was not the subject of religious discrimination.
“[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 ruled.
“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,” it said.
Page then appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, but it upheld the ruling against the former magistrate this week.
“This case reveals frightening developments in our society,” remarked Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, which represented Page in court. “The judgment demonstrates a total lack of understanding of what it means to be Christian and what it means to live out your faith in the public sphere.”
“But even more disturbing is the suggestion that simply holding the belief is sufficient to constitute a breach of his judicial oath. If upheld, this rules out conscientious, informed Christians from holding judicial positions,” she lamented. “Richard Page only wanted to do what was best for the child — the ‘gold standard’ for cases involving the welfare of a child. For expressing his well-founded belief that a child will do better with a mother and a father he has been unfairly dismissed and ruled out of public life.”