UK

Christian magistrate claims he was discriminated against for religious beliefs on same-sex couples

A Christian magistrate who was removed from the bench and sacked from his NHS job after saying children should have a father and a mother and not same-sex parents has today started a new legal challenge.

Richard Page claims he was removed from the magistracy and dismissed from his senior role at an NHS trust in 2016 after expressing his views on same-sex couples and adoption.

In 2014, when considering the case of the adoption of a child by a same sex couple, Mr Page said that as a Christian it was in a child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father. 

He was reprimanded by the UK’s top legal officials, before giving an interview to the BBC in which he claimed had been discriminated against for his opinions on the issue.

Mr Page, 74, was later removed from the magistracy and sacked from his non-executive director role on the NHS.

Now he is bringing a legal challenge against the Government and the NHS Trust Development Authority, which started today at the Court of Appeal.

Mr Page’s challenge, in which he claims he was discriminated against and faced victimisation because of his religion and beliefs, is opposed by the Government and the NHS Trust Development Authority. Both argue that the appeals should be dismissed.  

Richard Page claims he was removed from the magistracy and dismissed from his senior role at an NHS trust in 2016 after expressing his views on same-sex couples and adoption

Mr Page was reprimanded by the UK's top legal officials, before giving an interview to the BBC (pictured) in which he claimed had been discriminated against for his opinions on the issue

Mr Page was reprimanded by the UK’s top legal officials, before giving an interview to the BBC (pictured) in which he claimed had been discriminated against for his opinions on the issue

Today his lawyers said Mr Page’s ‘world was turned upside down’ in 2014, when he was one of three magistrates considering an adoption application by a same-sex couple.

He objected to the adoption order being made and claimed it was better for children to be bought up by a father and mother rather than a gay couple.

Complaints were made, alleging Mr Page was prejudiced against same-sex couples – which he denied. 

A conduct panel recommended Mr Page be removed from the magistracy and he was removed from office in March 2016, by then Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Lord Thomas

A conduct panel recommended Mr Page be removed from the magistracy and he was removed from office in March 2016, by then Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Lord Thomas

Mr Page was reprimanded by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice in December 2014 and ordered to undergo training.

He later took part in a number of media interviews about his case. 

Mr Page was told he should follow advice given to magistrates about their conduct in private and public life – which included advice in 2012 that the general guidance for all levels of the judiciary was to not communicate with the media.

Mr Page was referred to a conduct panel after taking part in a 2015 BBC interview, without seeking advice on his involvement, about workplace religious discrimination. 

The conduct panel recommended his removal from the magistracy and he was removed from office in March 2016, by then Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Lord Thomas, who said his comments suggested he was ‘biased and prejudiced against single sex adopters’.

He was suspended from his role as non-executive director at the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust after the BBC interview, having previously been told that he should inform the trust before contacting the media.

He was told his contract would not be renewed after June 2016.

Mr Page is challenging two rulings of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) which upheld previous Employment Tribunal decisions rejecting his discrimination claims.

Mr Page is bringing a legal challenge against the Government and the NHS Trust Development Authority, which started today at the Court of Appeal

Mr Page is bringing a legal challenge against the Government and the NHS Trust Development Authority, which started today at the Court of Appeal

The EAT concluded that Mr Page had lost his positions due to the manner in which he had expressed his beliefs, including giving interviews without speaking to his employers, rather than his views.

At a hearing on Tuesday, lawyers for Mr Page argued that he had been dismissed from his roles for suggesting on television that he had been subjected to discrimination for expressing his views on parenting, and said the EAT was wrong to conclude this was not a ‘protected act’ under equality laws.

Mr Page’s barrister, Paul Diamond, said: ‘The appellant decided to appear on the news report as he felt he had been subjected to both discrimination and detriment for the expression of the view that a child needs a father and a mother, views premised in his religious and philosophical beliefs.

Mr Page is challenging two rulings of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) which upheld previous Employment Tribunal decisions rejecting his discrimination claims

Mr Page is challenging two rulings of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) which upheld previous Employment Tribunal decisions rejecting his discrimination claims 

‘The appellant averred victimisation.

‘The appellant has never disparaged any group or class of individuals; used abusive or inappropriate language or shown any bias.

‘His language was temperate and moderate and would concur with a widespread view that children benefit from the modelling of both sexes during upbringing.’

Mr Diamond said the case ‘raises nuanced and complex issues on the right of an experienced judge to raise concerns about the welfare of children in a public forum; to participate in the wider public debate on the principle of a family for a child: not a child for a family’.

Mr Diamond said Mr Page had ‘served dutifully’ as a magistrate for 20 years and was a dedicated public servant, adding: ‘The appellant’s public service was exemplary, and he appeared to be valued.’ 

The hearing before Lord Justice Underhill, Lord Justice Peter Jackson and Lady Justice Simler is due to last two days.

The judges are expected to give their ruling at a later date.


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