Yesterday (7th October 2020), Kristie Higgs lost her tribunal case after a ruling by Bristol employment tribunal stated she was not dismissed due to her Christian beliefs. This case came about after Higgs shared comments on her social media pages about LGBTQ+ education being introduced in primary schools.
Higgs, who worked as a pastoral administrator and work experience manager at a school in Fairford, was dismissed in 2019 for “gross misconduct” after posting comments about LGBTQ+ education being introduced in her son’s Church of England primary school.
One of the posts expressed Ms. Higgs’ belief that this education would “brainwash children” and she stated that they would “be taught that all relationships are equally valid and ‘normal’ “.
An anonymous complaint was made to the school Ms. Higgs worked at and she was eventually suspended and then dismissed following a disciplinary hearing.
Ms.Higgs alleged that she was dismissed on the basis of her religious beliefs.
However, Stephen Conlan, the school governor, stated in the tribunal:
We were not concerned with Ms. Higgs’s religious beliefs. We were concerned with the manner in which those beliefs were expressed.
The Bristol employment tribunal eventually ruled that Higgs’ dismissal was “the result of a genuine belief on the part of the school that she had committed gross misconduct”.
We concluded that, not only the dismissal, but the entire proceedings taken against Ms Higgs were motivated by a concern on the part of the school that, by reason of her posts, she would be perceived as holding unacceptable views in relation to gay and trans people – views which in fact she vehemently denied that she did hold.
Although not stated as clearly or simply as this, the act of which we concluded Mrs Higgs was accused and eventually found guilty was posting items on Facebook that might reasonably lead people who read her posts to conclude that she was homophobic and transphobic. That behaviour, the school felt, had the potential for a negative impact in relation to various groups of people, namely pupils, parents, staff and the wider community.
After losing her case, Ms. Higgs stated her “disappointment” and added:
I strongly maintain that I lost my job because of my Christian beliefs, beliefs which our society does not appear to tolerate or even understand any more. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe that I lost the job I loved because of my Christian beliefs. It’s hard to believe that the school would take one anonymous complaint and escalate it to all this.
Where was the school’s tolerance and kindness to me? Where was the school’s attempt to understand my point of view?
Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which backed Higgs’ case, said
This judgment should concern all of us who care about the freedom to be a Christian believer in the UK. It is clear no actual harm has come to the school’s reputation as a result of her posts but she has been sacked as if it had.
The Christian Legal Centre have expressed that Kristie Higgs is set to appeal the ruling of the employment tribunal.
Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.