Christian student expelled for gay marriage views on Facebook: “I stand by everything”
Felix Ngole, 38,after a ‘Fitness to Practice Committee’ hearing at Sheffield University,a second year Masters student ,was told that he has been “excluded from further study on a programme leading to a professional qualification” and is “no longer recognized as a University student.”
He had been studying a social work course.
Mr Ngole was told that by posting his comments on Facebook the Committee believed that he “may have caused offense to some individuals” and had “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the Social Work profession.”
Felix Ngole is appealing to the decision and is being supported by the Christian Legal Center. He said that the University’s decision to exclude him amounts to “secret policing of Christian belief.”
Saying he is “determined to challenge the decision because of its wider consequences and the huge issues of freedom of religion and freedom of expression that it raises.”
He told the Christian Legal Centre that: “My beliefs about marriage and sexual ethics reflect mainstream, biblical understanding, shared by millions around the world. Simply expressing that understanding, in a personal capacity, on my Facebook page, cannot be allowed to become a bar to serving and helping others in a professional capacity as a social worker.”
In September 2015 Felix Ngole made the comments on his Facebook, discussing the case of Kim Davis, a marriage clerk from the US state of Kentucky, who would not issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples.
Mr Ngole said that he supported Kim Davies’ decision and in the course of the discussion explained his interpretation of biblical teaching on sexual ethics.
He then later received an email from a university official telling him that his comments were being investigated and summoning him to a meeting.
He has since been told that the Faculty of Social Sciences Fitness to Practice Committee had ruled that he should be removed from the course.
Mr Ngole said: “The way that I have been treated raises very serious issues about the way students in English universities are being censored in their views and beliefs.
“If the personal statements of students on their own social media pages, and among their own ‘friends’ are now to be used to judge whether they are ‘fit and proper people’ to serve in professions such as law, medicine, teaching and social work, then very serious questions need to be asked about the freedoms in the UK.
“A university is not the proper body to judge whether a potential student is a fitting person to join a professional body. That is for the professional body concerned. If universities are now to scrutinise their student’s social media accounts, then students should be warned about that at the very start of their studies, and should be given the opportunity to decide whether it is the sort of university they want to attend.
“If each university is making its own, arbitrary decisions, who is monitoring these decisions and how can students ensure that, across all universities, there is good, fair and equal assessment of such issues?
“However, there is a far more serious issue at stake. Further education is a time when all students should be helped to explore their beliefs, through interaction and debate. If they are ‘censored’ from even sharing their ideas or beliefs as part of a discussion on Facebook then how can that happen? Even the Soviet Union did not restrict students like this!
“If these sort of judgemental procedures were in place when David Cameron and other Cabinet ministers were in Oxford, and some were members of the Bullingdon Club, one wonders whether they would have been prevented from continuing their courses as well!
“The university claims my views are discriminatory but I am the one being discriminated against because of my expression of Christian beliefs. I wonder whether the university would have taken any action if a Muslim student who believes in Shari’a law, with its teaching about women and homosexuality, had made moderate comments on his Facebook page. I don’t think so.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr Ngole, said: “The university’s treatment of Felix fundamentally violates its responsibilities under the Human Rights Act.
“The university has failed to protect his freedom of speech under Article 10 and his freedom of religion under Article 9. Students are entitled to discuss and debate their own personal views on their own Facebook page.”
Felix Ngole said “I stand by everything that I put on Facebook on that particular day.”
“I’m not the only Christian social worker… If the university succeeds in this, it will put them in a position where they cannot actually air their Christian views, and I don’t think that is right at all.
“I mean I’ve worked with so many gay and lesbian young people, and to be honest I’ve had contacts with people in same-sex relationships who’ve said: ‘Felix, what you said, I’m not offended at all’.
“I haven’t had any problem whatsoever supporting them and helping them.”
Felix Ngole is appealing to the university’s decision.
In a statement, the University of Sheffield said: “The individual concerned is currently appealing the decision of a Fitness to Practice Committee, relating to professional registration and the standards of the relevant professional body.
“These standards are nationally determined by the Health and Care Professions Council.”