ITS last big frivolous lawsuit – involving ‘persecuted’ actor Seya Omooba – ended up a complete train wreck. As did a number of high-profile cases before it.
But the Christian Legal Centre, headed by Andrea Minichiello Williams, appears blind to its failings and has now taken up cudgels on behalf of a school chaplain – Rev Dr Bernard Randall, above – sacked from Trent College near Nottingham.
Randall, 48, and Trent eventually parted company after he delivered a homophobic sermon in 2019 that a police officer described as:
Wholly inappropriate for a school, and society in general.
According to the Christian Legal Centre, trouble began brewing in June 2018 when the independent school, which has a “protestant and evangelical Church of England ethos,” invited the leader of “Educate and Celebrate,” Elly Barnes MBE into the school to train staff. The aim was to teach staff on how they could:
Embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your school.
Barnes, above, together with Dr Anna Carlile, had teamed up to a create a book called How To Transform Your School into an LGBT+ Friendly Place, a guide for nursery, primary and secondary teachers.
Randall, whose job description declared his role to “be the particular voice and embodiment of … Christian values which are at the heart of Trent’s ethos.” was alarmed when during the training Barnes instructed staff to chant “smash heteronormativity.”
In January 2019, at the next staff training day, Randall was “stunned” to find out that the school had the audacity to adopt Barnes and Carlile’s “Educate and Celebrate” – an LGBT-inclusive curriculum “even for the nursery provision at the school” – without first consulting him.
After asking students what subjects they would like to hear in his sermons during the summer term Christian chapel services, Randall was allegedly approached by a student who asked him whether he would address:
How come we are told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school.
He’d also allegedly been approached by pupils who had said that they were “confused and upset” by the issues involved in the new LGBT programme.
He than delivered a sermon entitled “Competing ideologies.” The following week, according to the CLC he was pulled into a meeting with the Deputy Head and the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL).
In “a hostile interrogation,” Dr. Randall was told that his beliefs were not relevant and did not matter, and that the sermon had hurt some people’s feelings and undermined the School’s “LGBT agenda.”
He was immediately suspended pending an investigation. Following an investigation and disciplinary hearing, Randall received a letter on August 30, 2019, stating that the Trent’s headmaster had concluded that his actions had amounted to gross misconduct and that he would be dismissed.
On appeal, his sacking was overturned by the school’s governors, but he was given a final warning instead. The CLC alleges:
Open censorship of his sermons followed. Randall was provided with 20 conditions that he had to comply with regarding any future sermons.
This included banning him from broaching:
Any topic or express any opinion (in chapel or more generally around the school) that is likely to cause offence or distress to members of the school body.
It also stated that:
You will not publicly express personal beliefs in ways which exploit our pupils’ vulnerability.
He was told that every theme and piece of sermon content had to be approved by school leadership in advance and that a staff member would observe to ensure each stipulation was met.
When the country went into lockdown in March 2020, Randall was immediately furloughed. As restrictions eased, the school refused to reinstate his timetable, planned to reduce his full-time hours to seven hours per-week, and eventually the head teacher made him redundant December 2020.
With the help of the CLC – which usually spells a kiss of death – Randall is suing for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal. An employment tribunal hearing is expected to be heard at East Midlands Employment Tribunal from 14 June 2021.
According to the CLC, the involvement of the police in the matter came about as a result of the Designated Safeguarding Lead reporting Randall, without his knowledge, to the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog, Prevent, “as a potentially violent religious extremist.”
On 1 July 2019, a Derbyshire police officer, Richard Barker, responded to the report to Prevent saying that the sermon posed no counter-terrorism risk. But he gave his personal opinion that the sermon “was wholly inappropriate for a school, and society in general.”
In the CLC report, Randall is quoted as saying:
My story sends a message to other Christians that you are not free to talk about your faith. t seems it is no longer enough to just ‘tolerate’ LGBT ideology. You must accept it without question and no debate is allowed without serious consequences. Someone else will decide what is and what isn’t acceptable, and suddenly you can become an outcast, possibly for the rest of your life.
I 100% see what has happened to me in Orwellian terms. Truth matters, but increasingly powerful groups in our society do not care about the truth. My career and life are in tatters. I believe that if this is the Cross that I have to carry to help prevent others from experiencing the same as me, I have no choice but to pursue justice.
Williams, as always, is in outrage overdrive:
When an ordained Church of England minister can’t give a simple sermon in a Church of England school without being reported as an extremist and hounded out of his job then who is safe?
All those that said it couldn’t happen – punishing and criminalising a Christian minister for preaching from the bible – need to take a long, hard look at the story of Bernard Randall.
Who are the extremists in this story? The moderate school chaplain with an intelligent, mild mannered and thoughtful sermon or Educate and Celebrate encouraging staff to smash heteronormativity?