Published: 20:09, 03 November 2020
| Updated: 20:10, 03 November 2020
A former magistrate dismissed from the bench for his views on the adoption of children by gay couples has started a new legal challenge.
Richard Page, 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.
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 subsequently also lost his position with the NHS Trust for speaking to the media about his case, after an LGBT member of the NHS complained.
He then fought to have the decision overturned and permission to take his case against the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice to the Employment Appeal Tribunal was granted in December 2018. But, in June last year, Mr Justice Choudhury announced the decisions of the Employment Tribunal were upheld, ruling against his claims for discrimination and victimisation because of his Christian faith.
Now, Mr Page, 74, is bringing a new legal challenge against the government and the NHS Trust Development Authority, which started today at London's Court of Appeal.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting him, said: "Richard Page's Christian understanding of the family is being treated as so offensive that those who express it are excluded from public life.
“Christians have tremendous capacity to serve society, but they are not only being told to leave their faith at the door – they are being told they cannot publicly express their faith anywhere.
“As a magistrate, Richard Page only wanted to do what was best for the child – the ‘gold standard’ for cases involving the welfare of a child. For expressing his well-founded belief that a child will do better with a mother and a father he has been unfairly dismissed and ruled out of public life.
"If Richard can also be thrown out of his NHS post, despite all his experience, for sharing his beliefs, it raises serious questions over how Christians can fully participate in society. His NHS role had nothing to do with his views about the family."
Ahead of the hearing, Mr Page said: "I am fighting this battle because I do not want anyone else to go through what I have. I do not want Christian beliefs to be barred from important positions in public life.
'I am fighting this battle because I do not want anyone else to go through what I have. I do not want Christian beliefs to be barred from important positions in public life...'
“When you sit in a Family Court, you have a huge responsibility to ensure the overall well-being of the children who are being recommended to be placed into new families. You weigh the reports and references before you and the evidence you hear. It is vital in such a scenario that a range of viewpoints are heard. That is why there are three magistrates who preside over a case, and not one dictating the decision.
“To punish and to seek to silence me for expressing a dissenting view is deeply worrying for our society. It is vital for Christians to take a stand for their freedoms, for the truth, and for the futures of our children.”
The case is believed to be the first time that the Court of Appeal will consider a Christian freedom of speech employment case.
It will test whether someone can be forced out of a public position for sharing their beliefs.