The Association of Christian Teachers (ACT) has taken a keen interest in the case of Bernard Randall, the school chaplain who was reported to the Government’s counter-terrorism unit and sacked for a sermon encouraging pupils to debate gender ideology. In May last year, we published an open letter expressing our concern that Christian views were not being tolerated or respected in the name of ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’. Our fear was that Christian teachers were being excluded in the name of ‘inclusion’, and we were dismayed to hear that Bernard’s case was dismissed at a recent Employment tribunal.
Here’s an update exclusively for ACT on the case from Christian Concern, who are supporting Bernard in a fresh appeal through the Christian Legal Centre. All opinions are their own.
Sacked chaplain to appeal after losing employment tribunal
When school chaplain, Revd Dr Bernard Randall, gave a short sermon on ‘identity politics’ in chapel, he could never have expected to be at the centre of such an important cultural and theological debate.
In 2019, in response to questions from students, Bernard delivered a sermon entitled ‘Competing Ideologies’. The sermon was moderate, encouraged respect and debate and said that it was alright for pupils to disagree with LGBT teaching.
The previous year, Bernard had expressed concerns that the LGBT group Educate & Celebrate were being invited into the school to give a training session to staff. The school itself, Trent College, near Nottingham, calls itself a Church of England, Christian ethos school. Educate & Celebrate (E&C), meanwhile, aims to “smash heteronormativity” – or, in other words, destroy a Christian understanding of sex and sexuality.
In 2021, the media reported that Bernard had been dismissed from his job at the school and reported to Prevent – the government’s terrorist watchdog – as a violent religious extremist.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Bernard took Trent College to court for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal. Judgment has now been handed down, however, Employment Judge, Victoria Butler, dismissed his claim.
But what exactly was her reasoning and what will happen next?
Judge Butler said that Bernard “takes an extreme view of E&C which bears no resemblance to the reality of its purpose and implementation, which was aimed simply at creating an inclusive environment for all.”
She went onto say that the tribunal had seen “no evidence that came anywhere close to supporting [Bernard’s] view that E&C would indoctrinate pupils …”
This is despite their openly stated aim to “completely smash heteronormativity.” These types of statements are politically charged and the tribunal seemed to overlook the fact that schools are required to be politically neutral (The Education Act 1996 Sections 406 and 407). To say that forms of LGBT symbology and education is politically neutral – such as getting people to pledge about how they will help further the LGBT cause is clearly untrue.
In contrast, Bernard’s sermon was moderate and respectful. From the very start, Bernard stated that “when ideologies compete, we should not descend into abuse, we should respect the beliefs of others, even where we disagree. Above all, we need to treat each other with respect, not personal attacks.”
Judge Butler seemed to dismiss this, and said, “We have already found that the message taken away by pupils was that it was wrong to be LGBT+ and okay to discriminate.”
This is despite Bernard explicitly stating: “no one should be discriminated against simply for who he or she is: that’s a Christian value.”
Dr Randall’s case shows the need for Christians to be united on important issues like sex and sexuality. At Tribunal, the Church of England’s Valuing All God’s Children guidance – which effectively supports transgender ideologies – was used against Bernard to discredit his beliefs.
Perhaps because of this guidance, the judgment mentioned but failed to recognise the importance evidence from Ian Paul, an evangelical theologian on the historic Christian understanding of marriage.
Bernard will appeal this ruling and will continue to be supported by the Christian Legal Centre.
What is clear is that freedom of speech is under threat – even for Christians at Christian schools, preaching Christian beliefs.
But we know that where there is good governance and leadership from Christians in these settings, the school – and therefore the children – flourish. This is why it is so important for Christian teachers and other staff members to remain bold and faithful so that the right to speak and teach true Christian values can be preserved for future generations.
Education Team Assistant at Christian Concern
Action: Sign the petition to protect children from being forced to accept LGBT ideology