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Christian housing manager wins freedom of speech case

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Adrian Smith, a housing trust manager in Manchester, has won his case in the High Court relating to comments he made on Facebook about marriage.

Mr Smith was demoted and took a 40 per cent pay cut for expressing his opinion that same-sex weddings in churches were “an equality too far.”

But the High Court has ruled that Mr Smith’s employer, Trafford Housing Trust, had acted unlawfully in breaching its terms of contract and had no right to demote him.

Comments

Mr Smith made the comments on his Facebook page outside of work time and they were not visible to the general public.

The trust claimed he broke its code of conduct by expressing views which might offend co-workers.

Mr Smith then launched breach of contract proceedings, saying that his employer had acted unlawfully by demoting him.

Ruling

Mr Justice Briggs ruled in favour of the Trafford Housing Trust employee.

The Judge said: “Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct, and then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40 per cent reduction in salary. The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory.”

Reaction

Responding to the judgment, Mr Smith said: “I'm pleased to have won my case for breach of contract today. The judge exonerated me and made clear that my comments about marriage were in no way 'misconduct'.

“Britain is a free country where people have freedom of speech, and I am pleased that the judge's ruling underlines that important principle.

“But this sad case should never have got this far. Long ago, Trafford Housing Trust should have held their hands up and admitted they made a terrible mistake.

“Had they done this then my life would not have been turned upside down and my family and I would not have had to endure a living nightmare”.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, commented:

“This is a great result for freedom of speech and for all those who believe marriage to be the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

“But Mr Smith’s case demonstrates the climate of fear that currently exists in workplaces across the country. People should be free to express their opinions on marriage without fear of going through a similar ordeal.

“Surely this is a time for the Government to sit up and take notice of what is happening to crucial freedoms, even before there has been any legal redefinition of marriage. If they press on with their plans in this direction, people like Adrian Smith may face far worse consequences in future”.

Previous stories:

Demoting Christian over Facebook comments was “over-reaction”, says lawyer

Demoted Christian in court over same-sex 'marriage' comments

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