UK theology lecturer sacked and threatened with counter-terrorism squad

In the UK, a theology lecturer with five young children has been sacked by a Bible college and threatened with the counter-terrorism squad after his social media post that went viral.

But his tweet was about the Christian church and its response to issues of human sexuality.

Dr Aaron Edwards claimed homosexuality was “invading the Church” and warned that “evangelicals no longer see the severity of this b/c they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true.”

“This is a ‘Gospel issue’, by the way,” he wrote.

“If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.”

Cliff College in Derbyshire asked Dr Edwards to remove the tweet, citing a violation of their social media policy, but he refused. He was suspended and threatened with a referral to Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog, and – after a disciplinary hearing – sacked.

What does it say about a society that prizes diversity of opinion, that a theology lecturer is dismissed and threatened with a counter-terrorism referral for what he described as an “expression of a deeply held belief”, which he believed was necessary to express? And what are the implications for academic and religious freedom?

Dr Edwards said the incident should deeply concern those who value free speech. He argues that since many churches decided to allow same-sex marriages in places of worship, conservative evangelical Christians have found themselves unable to express biblical teachings that do not affirm LGBT ideology without fear of reprisals.

Dr Edwards is now considering his legal options and believes the college discriminated against him and breached its obligations under the UK’s Equality Act 2010.

He argues that the dismissal was disproportionate and failed to balance his freedom to express his Christian beliefs.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the UK’s Christian Legal Centre, expressed her concern.

“A Christian theologian working for a Christian Bible college tweeting about the biblical Christian teaching on human sexuality has been sacked and labelled as a potential ‘terrorist’,” she said.

Unfortunately, the dismissal of Dr Edwards is not the only case.

In March, Rev. Dr Bernard Randall, an ordained Church of England chaplain, made international headlines by suing his employer Trent College in Nottinghamshire.

He was sacked after giving a sermon to school students in which he encouraged them to make up their own minds about transgender ideology.

These cases signal a grim outlook for Australia’s religious freedom. UK lecturers and chaplains are being fired despite the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits religious discrimination. In Australia, which has no equivalent protection at national level, the situation seems even bleaker. The Australian Law Reform Commission has proposed changes that could strip the limited safeguards religious schools do have, while states and territories continue to erode religious freedom with new anti-discrimination and conversion therapy laws.

The growing intolerance toward differing viewpoints, especially those based on faith, is not only alarming but also fundamentally contradictory to the core principles of a pluralistic and democratic society.

It is high time we re-evaluate the path we’re on.