Christian chaplain sacked for sermon questioning LGBT ideology

Rev. Dr Bernard Randall, an ordained Church of England Chaplain, has made international headlines after suing his employer Trent College in Nottinghamshire (which has a “long Anglican tradition”), for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal.

In what serves as a warning to Australian schools in light of recent Australian Law Reform Commission proposals, Dr Randall was sacked after giving a sermon to school students in which he encouraged them to make up their own minds about transgender ideology.

Dr Randall’s sermon was given in response to concerns from students following a presentation by LGBT group Educate and Celebrate (E&C) to the school. The group had been invited into the school to train staff and help “develop a whole-school LGBT+ inclusive curriculum”.

He told pupils “they were allowed to disagree with new LGBT policies, particularly if they felt they ran contrary to Church of England principles”:

During his sermon, Randall explained the Church of England’s traditional teachings on marriage, sexuality and gender to his young students, all of whom ranged from 11 to 17 years old. He emphasised that they were not obligated to accept the assertions made by LGBTQ activists and that they were entitled under English law to hold their own beliefs on such topics”.

Dr Randall’s claims were rejected by the East Midlands Employment Tribunal, which handed down its judgment on 21 February 2023. 

As part of the judgment, Employment Judge Victoria Butler argued that “the duty to safeguard pupils from the risk of harm and the requirement to comply with the Independent Schools Regulator outweigh the Claimant’s right to express his beliefs in the manner he did in a school environment”.

Not only was Dr Randall sacked, he was also secretly reported to the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog “Prevent” by the school’s safeguarding officer.

The safeguarding officer stated that “the referral arose because of the objectionable way in which the Claimant manifested his beliefs and was justified because of the need to take a cautious approach from a safeguarding perspective”.

This referral was supported in Judge Butler’s judgment. However, the watchdog ultimately “determined that [Dr Randall] did not pose a terrorist threat”.

Dr Randall has described the decision as a “blow for free speech and Christian freedoms”.

“This is also a personal blow. We will appeal, so it takes up yet more of my life. But it is only one battle in the war to preserve free speech and the liberal values which built our country.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is backing Dr Randall’s case, has said:

“We cannot permit this judgment to stand. It is neither a rational judgment nor an impartial one. It reads as a promotional piece for Queer theory.”

“The message from this judgment to Christians is you cannot disagree or express disagreement with LGBT teaching – you must comply, celebrate and promote. It is not enough to be tolerant and liberal in the original sense of those words. You have to actively promote and celebrate”.

This decision serves as an ominous warning to Australia about the future of religious freedom and the ability of religious schools to operate in accordance with their beliefs and ethos. If such actions can lawfully occur in the United Kingdom, where the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious beliefs, what hope is there for religious schools in Australia in the light of recent Australian Law Reform Commission proposals, which if implemented would remove critical religious freedom protections from schools?