Was it discrimination to dismiss a Christian NED after he publicly spoke out against same-sex adoption?
No, although the case continues the debate regarding distinguishing the manner in which a belief is expressed from the belief itself. Mr Page is a… Read more
No, although the case continues the debate regarding distinguishing the manner in which a belief is expressed from the belief itself.
Mr Page is a practising Christian. He was also non-executive director of an NHS Trust and a lay magistrate sitting in family courts. As such, he was involved in adoption decisions. In 2014 he told his fellow magistrates that it was not normal for same-sex or single parents to adopt and it was always in a child’s best interests to be brought up by a heterosexual mother and father. He was disciplined in his capacity as a magistrate and this generated some media interest. Mr Page gave an interview to the Mail on Sunday, during which he repeated his views.
The Trust only became aware of the disciplinary action against Mr Page and the media interview after it received a complaint from the chair of the Trust’s LGBT Staff Network. The Trust asked Mr Page to inform it of any further media interest and explained that the public expression of his views could damage confidence in his ability to act impartially, and by extension damage confidence in the Trust. Despite this, Mr Page continued to give media interviews, including on BBC Breakfast News and as a result he was removed as a magistrate on 10 March 2016. This increased the media interest and Mr Page gave a number of interviews over the following days, including to Good Morning Britain during which he said that homosexual activity was wrong and that he didn’t agree with same-sex marriage. The Trust decided not to extend Mr Page’s term as a non-executive director because he had continued to engage with the media against the Trust’s instructions and his actions were likely to have a negative effect on the public and staff confidence in Mr Page as an NHS leader.
Mr Page brought direct and indirect religious discrimination claims in the Employment Tribunal (ET), saying that he had been dismissed because of his religious belief. His claims were dismissed and he appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). In doing so, Mr Page made some technical arguments about the way in which the ET had approached its analysis of his claims which were rejected by the EAT. Mr Page also argued that the things he said and the manner in which he said them were so intertwined that the ET should not have distinguished between them. The EAT rejected those arguments and held that there was an insufficiently close and direct nexus between the act (the manner of expression) and the underlying belief. The reasons relied on by the Trust (continuing to engage with the media without authorisation and without considering the impact that his remarks would have on vulnerable sections of the public that the Trust engaged with) were separable from the allegations of discrimination.
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