An employment tribunal is examining a bishop’s role in blacklisting a chaplain from officiating in the Church of England (CofE) after he was wrongly reported as a potential ‘terrorist’ and harassed out of employment at a school for giving a sermon on identity politics. .
‘Unemployed’ as a priest
On 23-24 February, the East Midlands Employment Court will hear how the Rev Dr Bernard Randall has been made unemployed as a CofE priest since the Bishop of Derby, the Rt. The Reverend Libby Lane refused to allow her to work as a minister following her dismissal from Trent College in Nottingham.
He was blacklisted by the diocese as a “protection risk” to children and vulnerable adults for giving a subdued sermon to school students during chapel. To this day, Bernard says the diocese has not specified what the charges against him are, and no evidence has ever been released to show that he did anything wrong or behaved inappropriately with anyone.
However, the unsealed documents have revealed, following the safeguard investigation, that a senior member of the diocese stated regarding his sermon:
“There are a disproportionate number of people who are drawn to schools through the Church who have ‘this way of thinking.'”
The protection team was also concerned that Bernard represented a “reputational risk” to CofE because of CofE’s own teachings on marriage and human identity, which were expressed in his sermon. The team concluded in a risk assessment that because the Bible supports this position, the Church could even be “a risk factor in itself.”
Case against the bishop and the diocese
Behind the scenes, efforts to resolve the situation have been obstructed. So apart from a case against Trent College, Bernard has also had no choice but to bring a claim against the Bishop of Derby and the diocese’s protection team on the grounds of religious discrimination, harassment and breaches of the Equality Act 2010. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has also refused to intervene in the case.
Bernard is seeking damages for financial losses and a recommendation that the bishop and the diocesan protection team receive training on the Law of Discrimination, especially as it relates to the Christian faith and free speech.
The preliminary hearing in Nottingham this week will decide whether the Bishop of Derby’s actions fall within the purview of an employment tribunal. The bishop’s lawyers argue that Bernard was never an employee of the diocese and therefore this is not a labor issue. However, Bernard’s lawyers say the bishop’s actions have led directly to his becoming unemployed as a priest and therefore the full claim must be heard in this forum. (It would be a similar situation if, for example, the General Medical Council refused to grant accreditation to a qualified physician.) Furthermore, Bernard’s lawyers will argue that the bishop would not have treated him this way if he had been condoning same-sex marriage and transgender beliefs.
Bernard, is prohibited from giving a sermon for three years, what he says has caused him great personal anguish and pain.
‘In search of justice’
Prior to the hearing, Dr. Randall commented: They accuse me of thinking wrong. There is no allegation that my behavior towards anyone has ever fallen below proper standards. Only my thinking is being checked. Even the Spanish Inquisition told people what the charges were.
“People in the Church are accusing me of the crime of thinking what the Church thinks; Because I preached what the Church teaches, they think I’m too dangerous to be allowed to preach in any Church.
“The Bishop of Derby has shown moral cowardice in refusing to uphold the goodness of the Church’s own teachings, and has utterly failed to support and vindicate me. Unfortunately, CofE seems to be more concerned with its reputation in the secular world than with showing spiritual leadership.
“The human cost to me has been immense and I have no idea what the future holds.
“People ask me why I haven’t left CofE, and I can only say because it’s a deep part of who I am.
“The behavior of the school is wrong, but the Church should have known better and done better. It has hurt me more than anything how CofE has treated me.
“I have not had any type of protection and I have had no choice but to seek justice. The day comes when you have to face the bullies. I am horrified that it is the Church that has forced me to do it.
“The Church should think about what is acceptable to God, instead of conforming to society. If we only say what people already think or believe, why should people listen to the Church? If we only say what is already acceptable, we add nothing to people’s lives.
“I have never had any desire to leave CofE, I think it has turned its back on me.”
‘Target for defending Christian views’
Andrea Williams, executive director of the Christian Legal Center, which is supporting Dr. Randall’s case, said: “Bernard is one of many faithful Church of England ministers who have come under attack for believing and defending Christian views on sexuality, gender and marriage.
“On paper, the Church of England believes and teaches exactly what Bernard said. But in practice, ministers like him are subjected to cruel protection procedures as if believing in the church’s own doctrine makes them a danger. The bishop somehow failed to defend Bernard and is effectively trying to end his ordained ministry.
“The more the Church of England progresses in confusion and abandonment of its own teachings, the more people like Bernard will be forced to abandon these torturous and unreasonable processes.
“We will support Bernard and everyone else who continues to live and speak the Christian faith in public life for as long as it takes.”