There is an interesting case out of England this month where a chaplain has sued after he was fired and reported as a threat to young students for questioning LGBTQ activists. What is most alarming is the initial response of the courts in dismissing his free speech rights and effectively ratifying the cancel campaign against Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall, an ordained Church of England minister, after he spoke out against LGBTQ identity policies.
Trent College is affiliated with the Church of England. Rev. Randall sued Trent College in Derbyshire, England, for discrimination, harassment, victimization and unfair dismissal after he was fired after five years as chaplain at Trent College, according to Fox News Digital. The cause of his termination was a 2019 sermon in which he told students they should be able to reach their own conclusions about the claims of LGBTQ identity politics.
The Church has previously enlisted Elly Barnes, CEO and founder of the LGBTQ education charity Educate and Celebrate, to train school staff. Barnes reportedly urged staff to chant “smash heteronormativity” during a training session.
In his sermon to young students ranging in age from 11 to 17 years old, Randall explained the Church of England’s traditional teachings on marriage, sexuality and gender and said that they were not obligated to accept the assertions made by LGBTQ activists. He reminded them that they were entitled under English law to voice and follow their own beliefs. His sermon included this statement:
The decline of free speech in the United Kingdom has long been a concern for free speech advocates (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Once you start as a government to criminalize speech, you end up on a slippery slope of censorship. What constitutes hate speech or “malicious communications” remains a highly subjective matter and we have seen a steady expansion of prohibited terms and words and gestures. That now includes criminalizing “toxic ideologies.”
In the case of Nicholas Brock, the court gave a neo-Nazi a four-year sentence for what the court called his “toxic ideology.” Police searched Brock’s room and found a montage of hateful symbols as well as weapons, including SS memorabilia and a Ku Klux Klan recognition certificate. Judge Peter Lodder QC declared “I do not sentence you for your political views, but the extremity of those views informs the assessment of dangerousness.” Lodder lambasted Brock, declaring
“[i]t is clear that you are a right-wing extremist, your enthusiasm for this repulsive and toxic ideology is demonstrated by the graphic and racist iconography which you have studied and appeared to share with others… Your bedroom was decorated with SS memorabilia, a framed Ku Klux Klan recognition certificate in your own name was hanging on your wall….You stored documents such as the offensively titled ‘N***er owner’s manual’, you had video clips of Ku Klux Klan discussions about race war, of cross-burning, of decapitation, and a propaganda video of Combat 18, a race-hate neo-Nazi group. The police discovered racist ‘memes’, a copy of the Christchurch mosque murderer’s livestream video and a news clip of the proscribed terrorist group National Action. In addition, your stored photographs of you wearing a balaclava and holding firearms in poses reminiscent of the Combat 18 propaganda, and of you in company with other neo-Nazi sympathisers who were making a Nazi salute.
The degree of your devotion is indicated by your decision to cover your upper body and arms with tattoos of symbols associated with neo-Nazism, SS death head skulls, swastikas and of individuals infamous in Hitler’s Germany.”
What is most striking is that Lodder makes clear that it is harboring these views, not disseminating them or taking action that is the crime.
“It is submitted on your behalf that these are not obscure documents, are not specialist material and that two of them can be purchased on-line. That there was no preparation for any act, and that you are in your 50s, walk with a stick there was no evidence of disseminating to others. I do not sentence you for your political views, but the extremity of those views informs the assessment of dangerousness.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, Head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) acknowledged that others might collect such items for historical or academic purposes but Brock crossed the line because he agreed with the underlying views:
“From the overwhelming evidence shown to the jury, it is clear Brock had material which demonstrates he went far beyond the legitimate actions of a military collector…Brock showed a clear right-wing ideology with the evidence seized from his possessions during the investigation….We are committed to tackling all forms of toxic ideology which has the potential to threaten public safety and security.”
As I noted at the time, this decision showed the slippery slope of censorship in the United Kingdom. What constitutes “toxic” views of “”right-wing extremism” can change and expand over time. In this case, a minister challenging LGBTQ ideology is now considered a threat to students.
It would seem that there were a myriad of options for the Church beyond termination and alleged blacklisting. It could have presented countervailing views, as it did when it invited Barnes to the school. Instead, the diocese is now being accused of religious discrimination, harassment and a breach of the Equality Act 2010.
We will continue to follow the case.