UK university expels Christian postgrad student over Facebook anti-gay marriage post - media

© Mike Segar
A social worker postgraduate has been expelled from Sheffield University for citing biblical verse against homosexuality on his private Facebook profile while backing Kim Davis, a US clerk, who refused to issue marriage certificates for same-sex couples.

Felix Ngole, a 38-year-old father of four, was forced to abruptly finish his studies as a second year Masters student after the university’s ‘fitness to practice’ committee ruled that by calling gay marriage an ‘abomination’ on his FB he “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the Social Work profession," the Telegraph reports. Ngole, a devoted Christian, was citing Leviticus while propping his argument on the gay marriage issue.

The designated Bible verse says: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

The university’s disciplinary board began reviewing the case two months after the post appeared on his page, following a complaint from a fellow student. Ngole, who had already completed two university degrees and used to work as a teacher, was accused of “bringing the profession into disrepute” by voicing his personal opinion on the sensitive subject. 

The probe by the Fitness to Practice Committee said that although the student was entitled to express his views on gay marriage, his remarks “may have caused offence to some individuals.” Based on this judgment, Ngole was found unfit to pursue the chosen career path and was "no longer recognized as a University student.”

Ngole intends to appeal the decision on the basis of discrimination.

“I wonder whether the university would have taken any action if a Muslim student who believes in Sharia law, with its teaching about women and homosexuality, had made moderate comments on his Facebook page. I don't think so," said Ngole, stressing that he was being discriminated against for expressing Christian beliefs, as cited by Premier ChristianRadio.

Ngole who came to England from Cameroon in 2003 as a refugee, also questioned the right of educational institutions to monitor students` personal activity and rule that a particular student is fit or unfit for a profession based on his/her social media postings.

"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?” Ngole asked, warning of dangers that lie in banning persons from becoming professionals in social work and other fields in connection with their personal statements. 

Universities, in his opinion, should follow a completely different path and, instead of censoring peoples’ beliefs, encourage an exchange of opinion. 

“If they are 'censored' from even sharing their ideas or beliefs as part of a discussion on Facebook then how can that happen?” says Ngole, who plans to file a legal motion referring to the breach of his right of expression if his appeal to the university panel fails.

"I am not against people who are in same-sex relationships: that is their choice. But I am a Christian and if asked for my views I should be free to express that,” he said, as cited by the Guardian. He intends to challenge the panel’s argument that he would be unable to work with gay people, as they may stumble on to the controversy surrounding his name on the internet. 

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"I have worked with people in same-sex relationships in the past and there has been no issue whatsoever,” he claimed.

Andrea Williams from the Christian Legal Centre said the university’s conduct violates Ngole’s fundamental rights.   

"The university has failed to protect his freedom of speech under Article 10 and his freedom of religion under Article 9,” she said, referring to the Human Rights Act. 

A spokesperson from the University of Sheffield told RT: “The University of Sheffield is concerned that stories in the media about a student undertaking a MA in Social Work are factually incorrect. The individual concerned is currently appealing the decision of a Fitness to Practise 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. As the case is subject to appeal, the University of Sheffield will not comment on this case at this time.”

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield denounced the accusations of religious bias against the student, saying that media reports were “incorrect.”

“The University of Sheffield is concerned that stories in the media about a student undertaking a MA in Social Work are factually incorrect. 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. As the case is subject to appeal, the University of Sheffield will not comment on this case at this time,” reads the statement, which was sent to RT via e-mail.

In September 2015, Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk, stirred controversy after citing religious reasons for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.