A British Christian school administrator, sacked last year after she expressed concerns on social media about gender and relationship education in primary schools, has lost her case for unfair dismissal on alleged discrimination and harassment grounds due to her beliefs.
Her dismissal “was the result of a genuine belief on the part of the School that she had committed gross misconduct,” said Employment Judge Reed, according to a court document.
However, according to an emailed news release on Wednesday from the Christian Legal Center supporting her, 44-year-old mother, Kristie Higgs, will appeal Bristol Employment Tribunal’s ruling that she was fairly dismissed.
‘Wrong in Law’
“We are currently drafting the exact grounds for appeal but they will be that to find Kristie was not being discriminated [against] was wrong in law,” Andrea Williams CEO of Christian Concern’s Christian Legal Centre told the Epoch Times.
Higgs was sacked after seven years at Farmor’s School in Gloucestershire, South West England because she shared two Facebook posts in 2018 with friends and family. She shared them after becoming concerned about sex and gender education in her son’s Church of England primary school, which was not the school where she worked.
The Facebook posts were then anonymously shown to the school who asked the complainant to gather further information on Higgs’ activities for them. Higgs was then called to a disciplinary hearing and sacked for gross misconduct.
In one of the two Facebook posts shared in her maiden name and which did not mention the school where she worked, Higgs asked friends and family to sign an online petition against making relationships and sex education (RSE) compulsory in schools. The petition was titled “Uphold the right of parents to have children educated in line with their religious beliefs.”
Respect the Right of Parents
It said the move to make sex education compulsory was repressive, anti-Christian, and against parents’ rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, which requires the state to respect the right of parents to have their children educated in “conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
RSE has since become mandatory in schools in England.
According to the Christian Legal Centre, however, the government has “restricted” the RSE curriculum to “prevent the LGBT indoctrination of children—vindicating the protests of parents such as Mrs. Higgs.”
Asked if this made the tribunal judgment appear at odds with government guidance, Williams said this was “part of the ongoing tension” around the case.
“Parents do have concerns around this and the decision in Kristie’s case was very extraordinary,” she said.
The Christian Legal Centre said the tribunal accepted that Higgs’ Christian beliefs did not “equate to homophobia or transphobia” and Williams highlighted the tribunal finding that in sharing the Facebook posts Higgs had not been motivated by hate.
Driven by Fear
The judgment against Higgs may however have been driven by fear, Williams said.
“They [the school] said themselves that she herself wasn’t hateful but somebody might consider her posts to be hateful and that’s why they dismissed her,” she said.
“So it was the perception of the information that she shared … but there is a reality, people are in fear and it would seem that this employment tribunal was also in fear.”
In the other Facebook post, Higgs shared a 2017 article by JudyBeth Wagoner, a pro-life Christian writer, and political commentator, on the increase of transgender ideas in American schoolbooks.
Asked if the way the school gathered information against Higgs had a bearing on proceedings as it might in a criminal case Williams said, “Well it should have done.”
“The idea that the headmaster would ask an anonymous complainant to go and look for evidence on one of his staff is shocking,” she said.
“It was raised—we made the point, but no-one seemed to consider it that shocking.”
The Christian Legal Centre said that when originally interviewed by the school over the Facebook posts Higgs was told to “keep her religion out of it.”
On what such a tribunal might consider permissible in terms of expressing views based on religious beliefs, Williams said “If this is not permissible, then what is?”
“It’s hugely chilling—this has a hugely chilling effect on freedom of speech,” she added.
Via the Christian Legal Centre news release Higgs said she will continue her fight for justice.
“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 anymore,” she said.
“I have to continue to fight for justice so that no one else has to go through what I have.
“I want parents to have the freedom to bring their children up in line with their Christian beliefs, I want young children to be protected from this harmful ideology,” she added.
Higgs also said Christians must be able to share their opinions without fear of losing their jobs.
Neither Farmor’s School nor the chair of its board of governors had responded to a request for comment by the time of this report.