The Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom has issued a landmark victory for a Christian student who was expelled from Sheffield University for citing the Bible’s view of sexuality and marriage in social media conversations.
The university learned of Felix Ngole’s social media posts through an anonymous complaint.
The new court ruling reversing the punishment is a “statement of the law likely to be relied upon in hundreds of cases,” according to the U.K. activist group Christian Concern.
The decision affirmed the rights of British Christians “to freely express their faith,” the group said.
Calling it a “major development of the law,” Christian Concern said it’s “now clear that Christians have the legal right to express Biblical views on social media and elsewhere in public without fear for their professional careers.”
“This is the first Court of Appeal judgment regarding freedom of expression of biblical views which sets limits on the rights of professional regulators to limit free speech on social media,” the group said.
Ngole was expelled in 2016 from his social-work studies at Sheffield University after quoting Bible verses on Facebook that were deemed critical of homosexuality, the organization said.
The year before, Ngole engaged in a discussion on Facebook about Kim Davis, the Kentucky registrar jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
During that debate he quoted Bible verses regarding marriage and the sin of homosexual activity.
The anonymous complaint to the school, apparently from a fellow student, came months later. Sheffield officials held a “Fitness to Practice” hearing because of his social-work studies.
“He was informed that he had brought the social work profession into disrepute and was then expelled from the course, losing the career he had worked so hard for,” Christian Concern said.
School officials later tried to justify their actions by claiming Ngole lacked “insight” into his social media posts.
They said that expressing Christian views was unacceptable.
“In some shocking exchanges from the High Court hearing, [which preceded the Court of Appeal decision] the University of Sheffield implied that Felix was not allowed to express the Christian viewpoint on same-sex marriage or homosexuality on any public forum, including in a church,” Christian Concern said.
But the Court of Appeal’s decision means it was the university that was “lacking insight” into the Christian viewpoint.
The Court of Appeal condemned the position of the university, which would have people fearing they would become the target of an anonymous complaint.