In 2018, Kristie Higgs, a UK public school teacher, posted a message on Facebook complaining about the sex ed curriculum she was required to teach. She couldn’t believe that same-sex couples would be described as “equally valid” and “normal,” or that transgender identities would be affirmed.
She claimed the entire lesson was anti-Christian.
… freedom of belief will be destroyed, with freedom of speech permitted only for those who toe the party line!
… this is a vicious form of totalitarianism aimed at suppressing Christianity and removing it from the public arena.
A separate post discussed how schools that were LGBTQ-accepting were “destroying the minds of normal children by promoting mental illness.”
She’s obviously delusional and hyperbolic. No one cares what she believes, nor is anyone preventing her from expressing those beliefs at home or in church. A public school curriculum shouldn’t be guided by what Christian bigots think about LGBTQ people. We can’t let education get derailed by people who have hate baked into their faith.
But Higgs posted this on her private Facebook page. She’s allowed to do that, right? Not necessarily. The problem is that someone who harbors such animosity against LGBTQ people could create a hostile environment in the classroom. Imagine your child’s teacher using racial slurs online; you might not want your child around such a teacher.
It wasn’t long before she was fired from Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire for “gross misconduct.” Higgs then filed a complaint with the (independent) Employment Tribunal saying she was “unlawfully discriminated against on the ground of religion.”
It was a battle between her religious right to be a bigot and the school’s right to provide a safe learning atmosphere for the students.
Yesterday, that tribunal issued its final ruling: There was no religious discrimination here.
The ruling says that this was hardly “private” speech since it was on social media and shared specifically with a circle of friends that included parents of students. Furthermore, it wasn’t her Christianity that was an issue:
Although not stated as clearly or simply as this, the act of which we concluded Mrs Higgs was accused and eventually found guilty was posting items on Facebook that might reasonably lead people who read her posts to conclude that she was homophobic and transphobic. That behaviour, the School felt, had the potential for a negative impact in relation to various groups of people, namely pupils, parents, staff and the wider community. It was a suspicion that she had done so that brought about the entire process.
In short, that action was not on the ground of the beliefs but rather for a completely different reason, namely that as a result of her actions she might reasonably be perceived as holding beliefs that would not qualify for protection within the Equality Act (and, as we say, beliefs that she denied having).
In other words, her open bigotry (even if she calls it Christian “love” or whatever religious euphemism she wants) could reasonably lead people to think she’s an open bigot. That’s a problem for the school — and good reason for them to fire her.
Humanists UK called this the right move:
… Humanists UK, which has campaigned for LGBT inclusive RSE for over fifty years, has welcomed the judgment, saying that schools should have a zero-tolerance approach to the expression of homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic views among members of staff charged with the education and care of young people.
The group’s Education Campaigns Manager Dr. Ruth Wareham added:
‘All children, including those who are LGBT, have a right to feel safe and accepted while they are at school. By sharing homophobic and transphobic content implying that same-sex relationships are abnormal and that LGBT people are mentally ill, Ms Higgs completely undermined the school’s ability to offer an LGBT-inclusive environment to its pupils and it had no choice but to sack her.
It’s a fair point. If a teacher was (let’s say) privately comparing Christianity to terrorism or mocking intellectually disabled people, parents may not feel comfortable with that teacher in the classroom.
Since the decision, however, Higgs still believes she’s a victim in all this:
Higgs said she planned to appeal. She said: “I strongly maintain that I lost my job because of my Christian beliefs, beliefs which our society does not appear to tolerate or even understand any more. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe that I lost the job I loved because of my Christian beliefs. It’s hard to believe that the school would take one anonymous complaint and escalate it to all this.
“Where was the school’s tolerance and kindness to me? Where was the school’s attempt to understand my point of view?”
The anonymity she’s complaining about is irrelevant. We have the screenshots. She wrote the posts. That’s not in doubt. And asking why the school isn’t tolerant of her intolerance is just pathetic. She doesn’t deserve to be paid to work with public school children when she believes certain kids are mentally ill because they’re gay or trans.
There are plenty of Christians who are loving and show it. She isn’t one of them.