In a landmark judgement, the Court of Appeal has upheld the rights of UK Christians to freely express their faith by handing victory to former student social worker Felix Ngole.
The Court of Appeal (COA, formally “Her Majesty’s Court of Appeal in England”) is the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales,, and second in the legal system of England and Wales only to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
Overturning a High Court decision to uphold Felix’s expulsion from Sheffield University, the crucial outcome represents a major development of the law. It is now clear that Christians have the legal right to express Biblical views on social media and elsewhere in public without fear for their professional careers.
This is the first Court of Appeal judgement regarding freedom of expression of Biblical views which sets limits on the rights of professional regulators to limit free speech on social media. The ruling is an authoritative statement of the law, likely to be relied upon in hundred of current and future cases.
Felix Ngole’s win in this landmark case in the UK has enormous implications for Israel Folau’s case against Rugby Australia.
“The university wrongly confused the expression of religious views with the notion of discrimination,” the three High Court appeal judges concluded yesterday. “The mere expression of views on theological grounds (for example, that ‘homosexuality is a sin’) does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds.”
Christian lobby groups in Australia have seized upon the judgement as a win for freedom of religious expression, saying it could be “manna from heaven” for sacked former rugby union star Israel Folau in his legal battle against Rugby Australia.
They say the four-year legal battle waged by Felix Ngole against the University of Sheffield bears similarities to Folau’s experience after he was sacked by RA over his biblical “go to hell” post in April.
“This will send chills down the spine of Rugby Australia,’’ Human Rights Law Alliance chief John Steenhof said yesterday.
“Israel Folau and his team will be thanking God for divine providence.’’ And so they should.