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Court of Appeal rules dismissal of former magistrate and NHS director Richard Page from Headcorn over gay adoption views was lawful

A former magistrate who claimed he was unlawfully sacked for voicing his beliefs about adoption and same sex couples has lost a Court of Appeal challenge.

Richard Page, 74, from Headcorn was struck off and later relieved from the post of non-executive director of the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust after a decision made on an adoption case in 2014.

Richard Page from Headcorn
Richard Page from Headcorn

Mr Page, a Christian, dissented from the view of his colleagues on the bench when a same sex couple applied to adopt, saying that in his view it was in a child's best interests to be raised by a mother and a father.

Two years later he was sacked from the bench for "serious misconduct" by then Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Lord Thomas, who said his comments suggested he was "biased and prejudiced against single-sex adopters."

He then lost his position with the NHS Trust for speaking to the media about his case, after an LGBTQ+ member of the NHS complained.

Today, after a six-year legal battle seeking justice against the decisions to remove him from both positions, a panel of judges ruled his sackings were lawful and threw out the appeal.

Mr Page called the ruling "deeply concerning" and hopes to take the case to the Supreme Court.

In his judgment, Lord Justice Underhill stated Mr Page’s views on same sex-marriage might cause offence and the basis on which he was dismissed was lawful.

He added: "The issue raised by this case is not about what beliefs such a person holds but about the limits on their public expression.

"The freedom to express religious or any other beliefs cannot be unlimited. In particular, so far as the present case is concerned, there are circumstances in which it is right to expect Christians (and others) who work for an institution, especially if they hold a high-profile position, to accept some limitations on how they express in public their beliefs on matters of particular sensitivity."

Lawyers representing Mr Page had argued at the hearing in November 2020 that upholding his removal on these grounds would force Christians holding traditional views about sexual morality into silence, making it almost impossible for them to hold any kind of public office.

In response, Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "This is an unfair and chilling decision, and the Supreme Court should put it right. The judgment sends a direct message to Christian public servants that if they allow their beliefs to influence their decision-making while in public office, they must self-censor and be silent.

“The idea that you can remove a director from the NHS based on a perception that members of the LGBT community may be offended by something he said in the media, is extraordinary and should concern us all.

“This ruling provides a green light for employers to punish Christian employees who do not fall in line with and unquestionably support LGBT ideology. We will continue to stand with Richard Page as he seeks justice. We will not stop until this wrong is put right."

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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