BRISTOL — An employment tribunal in the United Kingdom has ruled that school officials did not engage in religious discrimination or harassment when they fired an employee for posting objection on her personal Facebook page to teaching about homosexuality and transgenderism in the nation’s schools.
“In short, this was an unexceptional disciplinary process. Whilst it clearly would have been unpleasant for Mrs. Higgs to experience it, we were not satisfied that the conduct had either the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her,” wrote the Bristol Employment Tribunal on Tuesday.
“Our conclusion therefore was that Mrs. Higgs was not directly discriminated against on the ground of religion and nor was she harassed.”
As previously reported, in 2018, Kristie Higgs learned that her son’s primary school, which is affiliated with the Church of England, would be adopting the “No Outsiders” curriculum, which teaches youth about protected characteristics covered by the 2010 Equality Act.
According to a site about the book, the effort “aims to bring children and parents on board from the start so that children leave primary school happy and excited about living in a community full of difference and diversity, whether that difference is through ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or religion.”
Higgs attended a meeting to learn more about what the school planned to implement, and then soon shared a petition on her personal Facebook page opposing a government proposal to make Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) mandatory for both primary and secondary schools.
“They are brainwashing our children,” Higgs wrote. “[RSE] means, for example, that children will be taught that all relationships are equally valid and ‘normal,’ so that same-sex marriage is exactly the same as traditional marriage and that gender is a matter of choice, not biology, so that it’s up to them what sex they are.”
“At the same, it means that expressing and teaching fundamental Christian beliefs relating to the creation of men and women and marriage will in practice become forbidden because they conflict with the new morality and are seen as indoctrination into unacceptable religious bigotry,” she added.
Higgs urged her friends to sign the petition, opining that she feared that freedom of speech on the issues will soon only be permitted “for those who toe the party line,” and that such is a “vicious form of totalitarianism aimed at suppressing Christianity and removing it from the public arena.”
She additionally shared an article to her Facebook account about two transgender-centered children’s books that are being utilized in American schools, writing above the link, “This is happening in our primary schools now.”
According to the organization Christian Concern, Higgs’ posts were only visible to her friends. One unidentified individual who saw her comments contacted Higgs’ place of employment, Farmor’s School in Fairford, to lodge a complaint.
Following an investigation and a six-hour hearing, Higgs was dismissed from her duties at the school where she worked (not the same school as her son’s). Reasons provided for her firing included “illegal discrimination,” “serious inappropriate use of social media” and “online comments that could bring the school into disrepute and damage the reputation of the school.”
According to Christian Concern, when Higgs attempted to explain her Christian beliefs in context during the hearing, she was told to “[k]eep your religion out of it” and her views were compared to those of a “pro-Nazi right wing extremist.”
Higgs, therefore, felt that she was instead the one who was being discriminated against and took the matter to the Bristol Employment Tribunal.
On Tuesday, the tribunal concluded that Higgs’ firing was not related to her religion but was “rather the result of a genuine belief on the part of the school that she had committed gross misconduct.”
“Although not stated as clearly or simply as this, the act of which we concluded Mrs. Higgs was accused and eventually found guilty was posting items on Facebook that might reasonably lead people who read her posts to conclude that she was homophobic and transphobic,” it stated.
“That behavior, the school felt, had the potential for a negative impact in relation to various groups of people, namely pupils, parents, staff and the wider community.”
Higgs says that she is disappointed with the ruling and plans to appeal.
“I strongly maintain that I lost my job because of my Christian beliefs, beliefs which our society does not appear to tolerate or even understand anymore,” she stated in a post shared by Christian Concern. “Where was the school’s tolerance and kindness to me? Where was the school’s attempt to understand my point of view?”
“I have to continue to fight for justice so that no one else has to go through what I have,” Higgs continued. “I want parents to have the freedom to bring their children up in line with their Christian beliefs. I want young children to be protected from this harmful ideology. Christians must also to be able to share their opinions and beliefs without fear of losing their jobs.”