Court gives pastor partial victory in Pride Month tweets case

Keith Waters
Pastor Keith Waters |

A UK court has ruled that an evangelical pastor and ex-school custodian who claims his former employer forced him to quit after he tweeted that LGBT Pride Month events are ‘harmful’ to children and ‘contrary to the Christian faith” suffered “indirect discrimination”.

Pastor Keith Waters, 55, says he had no choice but to quit his role as part-time caretaker at Isle of Ely Primary School in 2019 after his death. Tweeter warning that Christians “should not support or attend” Pride Month events.

Cambridge Employment Tribunal heard Waters’ discrimination case in January and issued a decision April 22.

The court dismissed Waters’ claims of “direct discrimination” and “constructive dismissal”, but upheld his complaint of “indirect discrimination in the imposition of the disciplinary sanction”. However, the court held that the imposition of the disciplinary sanction “post dated the resignation and therefore cannot be the reason why the plaintiff resigned”.

The judges found the fact that Waters made the tweet outside of work on his personal Twitter account as part of his role as a Christian minister “highly relevant”. The body said it’s “one thing to have rules that apply while at work and another to extend them to one’s privacy outside of work”.

The decision noted that the restriction of “the plaintiff’s freedom of expression outside of work, which is an important part of his role as a Christian minister and therefore part of the freedom to practice his religion, must be done with some degree of caution and only in the clearest cases where the rights of others are harmed should the school intervene to prevent the claimant from preaching.”

The decision concludes that Waters is “entitled” to his views on sexual relations. Although they may “commit to the fundamental rights of others”, “it is clear that the same could be said of certain other aspects of Christianity which may conflict with other religions”.

The court said Waters’ Christian beliefs are protected by the Equality Act 2010.

“It is clear to us that evangelical Christian ministers will hold views that will not necessarily be shared by everyone in society, but it is part of their duty as a Christian minister to preach those beliefs,” the decision states. court headed by labor judge King. “In today’s modern society, social media is a medium in which these beliefs are preached, which is good for spreading the word but puts the word in the increasingly accessible public forum.”

Waters had argued that his sermons were also recorded and posted on the church’s website and that there might be content in those sermons that others might find offensive and trigger a violation of the church’s employment policies. ‘school. The court accepted this argument, saying that in theory a member of the public could be a member of their church and “take offense in such a way that every time an evangelical Christian minister fulfilled his role, he risked a sanction disciplinary”.

“There are other Christian ministers with secular employment and it is obligatory that they preach the gospel to others,” the leader says.

“The Respondent argued that there was no evidence that any of the Respondent’s other employees shared the same belief or that he suffered a disadvantage because of it. We cannot accept that, since we had no evidence of the religious beliefs of the Respondent’s other employees as The policy we agreed would apply to all, but others would be disadvantaged by the PCP in the same way as the Applicant if they had the same beliefs as the plaintiff, then preached those beliefs and that resulted in a complaint to the school.”

The court dismissed the allegation of “direct discrimination” because he was not fired and others who wrote a “similar post for non-religious reasons would be subject to the same treatment”.

In a statementWaters said he was “satisfied with the result”.

“This is a victory, not just for me, but for evangelical Christian leaders across the country,” he said.

“The freedom to resign from your job or be restricted from speaking as a Christian pastor is no freedom at all.”

Waters was represented by the Christian Legal Center. The organization’s chief executive, Andrea Williams, believes Waters “has achieved justice in this crucial case for Christian freedom.”

“For loving Jesus, speaking biblical truth and caring for the welfare of children, Keith became persona non grata – his words and intentions twisted, his persona murdered,” Williams said in a statement.

“Our schools and churches need more community-minded people like him, not less. For sending a tweet, which caused real concern for the children, he was vilified, threatened and fired from his job.”

Willaims said Waters is “the latest in a long line of cases where honest, kind, normal people are being harassed and intimidated for expressing moderate and mainstream Christian views on sexual ethics.”

“Why shouldn’t a Christian pastor be able to speak out on such concerning issues without being threatened and losing his job?” she added.

Waters said he felt “called” to the vocation of Caretaker of the Isle of Ely Primary School and to his other pastoral ministry work in Ely. Free Church of New Connections.

When he first took both jobs, he had to change all his previous professional activities to engage in both areas of work. He left his previous church, which was a place he had served for over a decade. And he voluntarily ended his job as an estate manager at a college at the University of Cambridge.

The career change also meant a 60% pay cut and moving his family 100 miles across the country, Christian Concern reported.

Waters said he was left with a lasting “emotional turmoil” from everything that had happened.

“Although I know it was the right thing to do, this whole episode had a lasting impact on me and my family,” he said. “In 37 years of employment, I have never been treated in such a cruel and hostile manner.”

Waters still believes that “anyone who attends a Pride event is at risk of being exposed to obscenities, which is obviously harmful to children.”

“In a free, responsible and truly loving society, we must be free to say this and raise concerns without fear,” Waters said.

“I always stand by what I said and I will always stand for the truth. I believe that the safety of children is paramount; and that everyone, but especially Christian pastors, should be able to voice their concerns and raise red flags where children may be at risk.”

Waters hopes the decision can help pastors who may be going through similar experiences.

“I pray that this decision helps protect pastors in the future who must work part-time in other jobs to make up for their income. This is a significant victory for our freedom to speak the truth of the gospel without fear of losing our jobs,” Waters said.

“I took legal action, not because I wanted to sue the school, but because what is happening to me goes to the heart of what it means to be free to preach the gospel in the UK. I thought that the issues raised by my case were far greater than anything that was happening to me and that it was the right thing to do.”

Barry F. Howard