LONDON, October 25, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – British government officials and employees have become the new witchfinders general, “obsessively” searching for the slightest deviation from the doctrines of political correctness, a legal expert has told LifeSiteNews.com.
“The obsession with hate crime and hate speech has created a new generation of publicly paid heresy-hunters,” said Neil Addison, an expert in religious discrimination law.
This week the British press is buzzing over a case that Addison called the “most extreme so far” of publicly paid employees enforcing the doctrines of political correctness and stifling civil liberties, especially of believing Christians.
Adrian Smith, a 54 year-old Christian property manager, was demoted and took a 40 percent pay cut, when he wrote on a private Facebook page that he disagreed with a proposed law to allow same-sex union ceremonies to be conducted in churches.
Writing on his own page, which was not available to the public, Smith wrote that the move was “an equality too far.”
“The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women,” Smith wrote. “If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the State; but the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.”
His employer, the Trafford Housing Trust (THT), of Manchester, called him in to a disciplinary meeting and found him guilty of “gross misconduct.” The trust told Smith the only reason he was not being sacked outright was his 18 years of faultless service.
Addison, a practicing barrister and the author of a textbook on hate crimes legislation, said, “When I was a child, people in England used to say ‘I can say what I like, it’s a free country’. That is certainly no longer the case in Britain today.”
“The Adrian Smith case is only the latest and possibly the most extreme example of the fact that British public bodies have ceased to have any respect whatsoever for the principle of freedom of speech.”
On November 15th an employment tribunal in London will begin to hear the case of Margaret Forrester, who was sacked from her job as a mental health worker because she had shown a pro-life booklet that said women suffer from mental health consequences after abortions to colleagues.
Addison is representing Forrester in his capacity as Director of Thomas More Legal Centre, an organization that assists Christians suffering from officially endorsed religious discrimination.
“She, like Mr. Smith,” Addison said, “was disciplined and ultimately sacked simply for expressing an opinion. I think Stalin would feel quite at home here.”
The Smith case has generated outrage among some media commentators, even some on the left, who have said the trust’s action is a case of political correctness gone too far. Ally Fogg, writing on the far-left Guardian’s website, said that Trafford Housing Trust “couldn’t have got things more badly wrong.” An editorial in the Daily Mail accused the trust of “despotic behavior.”
Cristina Odone, a novelist and columnist for the Daily Telegraph, noted that in today’s Britain, dominated by secularists, it is the “brave soul” who admits publicly to being a Christian. Expressing a dissenting opinion based on religion, she noted, “can ruin your professional life even when it is expressed in private.”
“Nonconformists [‘Puritans’] more than 400 years ago found that they could not express their beliefs in a country where the established Church brooked no argument. Today, the Establishment is made up of secular individualists ready to run nonconformists out of the public space, if not yet out of the country,” Odone wrote.
“Being taken for a cretin, a creationist and a chauvinist is not much better than a spell in the stocks.”
Smith, who faces the possible loss of his home because of the dramatic pay cut, has launched a civil suit against the Trafford Housing Trust with the help of the Christian Institute, saying they violated his rights to freedom of expression and religion.
His lawyer, Tom Ellis of Manchester-based law firm Aughton Ainsworth, said that Smith was “shocked and distressed” at the incident.
“As a Christian, Adrian believes in the values of fairness, courtesy and respect for the opinions of others,” Ellis said. “These are the values of a mature and healthy society.
“Surely that leaves room for colleagues to discuss and even disagree about the topics of the day. Conversations like that happen in offices and factories up and down the country every day.”
To express concerns to the Trafford Housing Trust:
Trafford Housing Trust Limited Head Office
Sale Point, 126-150 Washway Road,
Phone: (+44) 0300 777 7777
Fax: (+44) 0300 777 7778
Minicom Number: (+44) 0161 969 0720