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The claimant, Reverend Bernard Randall was employed as a chaplain at Trent College, an independent day and boarding school.

In August 2019 he was dismissed after presenting a sermon to students in all year groups delivering a message that could be understood as saying marriage could only be between a man and a woman; sex outside of marriage is wrong; that to be transgender was wrong and that religious belief permitted discrimination.

The Tribunal found that he had delivered the sermons in response to the school’s implementation of a programme called “Educate and Celebrate” in 2019 which was designed to ensure that the school was a welcoming environment for LGBT students and staff. He appealed against his dismissal and was reinstated with some management conditions in September 2019.

The Claimant alleged that he had been subject to direct discrimination on the grounds of his religious beliefs. He suggested that the disciplinary process (which included a referral to the Local Authority Designated Safeguarding Officer and Prevent the body that safeguards against terrorism and radicalisation) was a form of either direct discrimination or harassment. He relied upon his beliefs that marriage could only be between a man and a woman, that sexual activity should only take place within such a marriage and that people cannot change their sex.  He also claimed that he had been victimised after not being allocated an academic timetable in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 and following his dismissal on the grounds of redundancy in November 2020 and that he had been unfairly dismissed.

The Tribunal, following the Court of Appeal in Page v NHS Trust Development Authority [2021] EWCA Civ 255, found that the sermon amounted to an objectionable manifestation of his religious beliefs and that the school’s actions were justified by its need to safeguard the welfare of its students and to comply with the Independent Schools Standards Regulations 2014 which required the school to actively promote principles “which encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in” the Equality Act 2010.

The Tribunal found that the claimant’s subsequent dismissal was by reason of genuine redundancy. The primary emphasis in the claimant’s claim was that his dismissal was an act of victimisation. The claimant argued that he should not have been placed in a selection pool, however, he was the only chaplain in the school and no evidence was presented to the Tribunal to determine whether there were alternative similar roles, and his current role was not comparable to a qualified or experienced primary school teacher. The Tribunal agreed the claimant was dismissed by reason of redundancy and there were genuine grounds for doing so.

This is another in a line of “freedom of speech” cases that show the difficult balance between the competing rights of different groups. In this case, the rights of the chaplain to express his beliefs were outweighed by the school’s duty to keep children safe and to comply with Schools’ Standards Regulations. The best advice for employers is to try to create and promote a working environment in which tolerance is the norm.

Please note that this information is for general guidance only and should not substitute professional legal advice. If you have specific concerns, we recommend consulting one of our legal experts.


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