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Lord Chief Justice disciplines Christian Magistrate for belief about family

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Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice say 'Christian belief about family life is incompatible with Justice of the Peace duties.

A Cabinet minister and England's highest judge have together disciplined a Christian Magistrate for saying that a child's best interests lie in being raised by both a mother and a father, telling him that his Christian beliefs about the family must not influence his work whilst sitting on the Bench.

Richard Page, who has served as a Justice of the Peace in Kent for 15 years and is a well respected member of the panel, expressed the view during a closed-door consultation with colleagues in an adoption case. Having heard all the evidence in an adoption case, Richard decided that his legal duty to act in the best interests of the child meant that he couldn't agree to placing the child with a same-sex couple.

Following an investigation by the local JP Advisory Panel the case was referred to the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice.

The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have now told Richard that his Christian beliefs about family life are discriminatory against same-sex couples. He has been publicly reprimanded and barred from sitting as a Magistrate until he has received 'equality training' for his views.

'Huge pressure to conform'

Commenting on his experience, Richard said, "My Christian faith informs me that children flourish best in a loving home with a married mum and dad. My 20 years of experience in mental health service also leads me to the same conclusion. This is not a matter of prejudice or bigotry but is based on knowledge and evidence that I have applied when seeking the best interests for a lifetime of a vulnerable child.

"As a Magistrate in the Family Court, I must conduct a case-by-case analysis, based on the facts which are before me. In this particular case, it appeared to me that there was overwhelming evidence that the situation was not in the best interests of the child.

"Since making the decision I have been put under huge pressure to conform to the conclusions that others wanted me to reach but I knew that I had to dissent, for the sake of that child. Christian faith demands setting aside ideologically convenient conclusions and fighting for the best interests of children."


'What's best for the child'

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, he asked, "Why do you have magistrates if there isn't a different view that they can have? We all have views and that’s what you have to bring to decision-making, and mine are Christian views."

Recognising that his Christian faith shapes his outlook, he went on to explain "That’s allowed because that’s what we’re here for. Our job is to do what’s best for that child and that must be something to do with the magistrate’s views rather than just ticking the box."

'Declaration of war'

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said that the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice "have declared war on even residual notions of the faith having any place in our legal process."

"The Government, and law officers, it seems are intent on preventing Christians from manifesting their belief in the public square. The implications are wider than that, for what is said about Mr Page could apply equally to Jews, Muslims and others,"he went on to say. 

'Pawns on the equality battlefield'

Commenting on the case, Andrea Williams said, "Richard Page is accused of being prejudiced on account of his Christian faith. Ironically, closer inspection of this case reveals that the real discriminatory prejudice is that practised by those who would prioritise the placing of this child with a same-sex couple, not on the basis of evidence but on the basis of ideology.

"Children should not be denied the chance to be brought up by a mum and dad wherever that option exists. We cannot allow children to become pawns on the 'equality' battlefield. Real 'equality' means focusing on the needs of each child not being driven by the so-called rights of adults to become parents."

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