Teacher who said homosexuality was sin begins human rights fight after being thrown off university course
A religious education teacher who said homosexuality was a sin during an online discussion has begun a human rights fight in the High Court after complaining that university bosses were wrong to throw him off a social work course.
Felix Ngole (39), of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said he was lawfully expressing a traditional Christian view and has complained that bosses at Sheffield University unfairly stopped him completing a postgraduate degree.
He said his rights to freedom of speech and thought, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, have been breached.
Sheffield University bosses said the decision to remove him from the course was fair and proportionate.
They said he was taking a ''professionally qualifying degree'' with the aim of becoming a social worker and argued that what he had said would affect gay people he might work with.
Deputy High Court judge Rowena Collins-Rice is analysing his claims at a hearing in London.
The hearing began on Tuesday and is due to end on Wednesday.
Mr Ngole, who works as a supply teacher and comes from Cameroon, said the case has implications for others.
He is being backed by the Christian Legal Centre – which is part of the campaign group Christian Concern.
In 2015, Mr Ngole had been taking part in an ''open debate'' on a Facebook page about Kim Davis, a state official in the US state of Kentucky, who refused to register same-sex marriages, the judge heard.
He had expressed the view that ''the Bible and God identify homosexuality as a sin''.
"Mr Ngole's comments were made in a private/social as opposed to professional context," barrister Paul Diamond, representing Mr Ngole, told the judge in a written case outline.
"Mr Ngole's expression of his beliefs was a genuine contribution to an important public debate.
"Mr Ngole is entitled to express his religious views and did so in response to direct questions."
The judge heard that Mr Ngole was a "devout Christian" who had enrolled on a two-year MA Social Work degree course in September 2014.
Sheffield University bosses said the social work course was intended to give students a professional qualification and was monitored by the Health and Care Professions Council.
They said they therefore had a responsibility to consider students' "fitness to practise".
Barrister Sarah Hannett, who is leading the university's legal team, said Mr Ngole's case should be dismissed.
"In September 2015 the university became aware that the Mr Ngole had posted comments on a publicly accessible Facebook page that were derogatory of gay men and bisexuals," she said in a written outline of the university's case.
"The university instituted fitness to practise proceedings.
"On 3 February 2016 the Faculty Fitness to Practise Committee determined that Mr Ngole should be excluded from further study on a programme leading to a professional qualification but permitted registration for an alternative programme.
"The decision was upheld by [an] appeals committee."
She said the fitness to practise committee's decision was not "irrational".
The hearing continues.