A school secretly reported its chaplain to the anti-terrorism Prevent programme after he delivered a sermon defending the right of pupils to question its introduction of new LGBT policies.
The Reverend Dr Bernard Randall told pupils at independent Trent College near Nottingham that they were allowed to disagree with the measures, particularly if they felt they ran contrary to Church of England principles.
Among them was a plan to ‘develop a whole school LGBT+ inclusive curriculum’.
Having decided that Dr Randall’s sermon was ‘harmful to LGBT’ students, the school flagged him to Prevent, which normally identifies those at risk of radicalisation.
The Reverend Dr Bernard Randall, pictured above, told pupils at independent Trent College near Nottingham that they were allowed to question the introduction of new LGBT policies
Police investigated the tip-off but advised the school by email that Dr Randall, 48, posed ‘no counter terrorism risk, or risk of radicalisation’.
Derbyshire Police confirmed that the case ‘did not meet the threshold for a Prevent referral’.
But in a disturbing development, Dr Randall, a former Cambridge University chaplain and Oxford graduate, claims that the school later told him that any future sermons would be censored in advance.
He also claims that he was warned his chapel services would be monitored ‘to ensure that… requirements are met’. Dr Randall was later dismissed. He is suing for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal and his case is due to be heard next month. ‘My career and life are in tatters,’ he said.
Campaigners said the case was one of the most extraordinary of its kind and raised disturbing questions about freedom of speech. Former Education Minister Sir John Hayes said, if the claims are proved, the school had ‘behaved appallingly’.
Dr Randall’s sermon, delivered in the school chapel on June 21, 2019, was prompted, he says, by concerns from pupils about an organisation called Educate & Celebrate, run by Dr Elly Barnes, which was invited to ‘embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric’ of the school.
Activist: Dr Elly Barnes, above, who runs the Educate & Celebrate inclusion programme
In it, he said: ‘You should no more be told you have to accept LGBT ideology, than you should be told you must be in favour of Brexit, or must be Muslim.’ But he stressed the ‘need to treat each other with respect’. Several days later, he will tell the tribunal, he was called to a meeting and told the sermon was inflammatory, divisive and ‘harmful to LGBT pupils’.
Dr Randall only learned about the Prevent referral because it was mentioned in documents given to him ahead of a disciplinary hearing. ‘I had visions of being investigated by MI5, of men knocking down the front door,’ he said.
Trent College has a ‘Christian ethos’ and Dr Randall was appointed in 2015 to provide pastoral care, share the Christian faith and lead services in the school’s chapel.
But he claims he found himself increasingly sidelined as the school began implementing the Educate & Celebrate programme.
The MoS can also reveal that in legal proceedings against the school it will be claimed:
- Teachers were urged to chant ‘Smash heteronormativity’ during a training session;
- Dr Randall was excluded from discussions about the programme when he said some of its beliefs were contrary to Christian values;
- Educate & Celebrate demands schools adopt a gender neutral uniform policy and believe children should not refer to each other as ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ to avoid offending transgender pupils;
- Dr Randall was reported to the local authority designated officer, apparently because the school felt he might be a risk to children.
Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, said: ‘This is a fantastic sermon, reminding us no one has a monopoly on moral truth. For Bernard Randall to lose his job as a result of this sermon is scandalous.
‘What’s so depressing about his treatment is the message it sends to the pupils. The central theme of his sermon is that children shouldn’t be afraid to think for themselves. But the message the school has sent is the opposite. Schools should be teaching children how to think, not what to think.’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Dr Randall, said: ‘Who are the extremists in this story? The partisan agency who teach young children that they can be born in the wrong body, or the school chaplain moderately presenting what the Christian church has taught about marriage, sex and gender for the past 2,000 years?’
The College declined to comment.
‘You should no more be told you have to accept LGBT ideology than be told you must be in favour of Brexit’: The sermon that cost a school chaplain his livelihood
By The Reverend Dr Bernard Randall, Chaplain at Trent College
I have a theory about Brexit. It seems to me that people who voted to leave the European Union voted for largely political reasons – to do with democratic self-determination; and people who voted to remain did so for largely economic reasons – to do with prosperity and jobs.
Of course I’m simplifying here, and both sides claim to consider both, but it seems to me that which set of ideas, which ideology, takes priority determines which way many people voted.
And while we can easily discuss facts, and try to find the truth behind factual claims, ideals aren’t true or false in the same way.
And so the problem with the often very heated and unpleasant debate ever since the referendum is that people haven’t managed to cope with there being two competing sets of ideals – two ideologies.
Now when ideologies compete, we should not descend into abuse, we should respect the beliefs of others, even where we disagree. Above all, we need to treat each other with respect, not personal attacks – that’s what loving your neighbour as yourself means.
By all means discuss, have a reasoned debate about beliefs, but while it’s OK to try and persuade each other, no one should be told they must accept an ideology. Love the person, even where you profoundly dislike the ideas. Don’t denigrate a person simply for having opinions and beliefs which you don’t share.
There has been another set of competing ideals in the news recently. You may have heard of the protests outside a Birmingham primary school over the teachings of an LGBT-friendly ‘No Outsiders’ programme.
In a mostly Muslim community, this has been sensitive, because many parents feel that their children are being pushed to accept ideas which run counter to Islamic moral values.
Christian ethos: Trent College near Nottingham, which claimed that Dr Randall’s 2019 school sermon was ‘harmful to LGBT pupils’
And in our own school community, I have been asked about a similar thing – and the question was put to me in a very particular way – ‘How come we are told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?’ I thought that was a very intelligent and thoughtful way of asking about the conflict of values, rather than asking which is right, and which is wrong.
So my answer is this: There are some aspects of the Educate and Celebrate programme which are simply factual – there are same-sex attracted people in our society, there are people who experience gender dysphoria, and so on.
There are some areas where the two sets of values overlap – no one should be discriminated against simply for who he or she is: That’s a Christian value, based in loving our neighbours as ourselves.
All these things should be accepted straightforwardly by all of us, and it’s right that equalities law reflects that.
But there are areas where the two sets of ideas are in conflict, and in these areas you do not have to accept the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists. Indeed, since Trent exists ‘to educate boys and girls according to the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England’, anyone who tells you that you must accept contrary principles is jeopardizing the school’s charitable status, and therefore it’s very existence.
You should no more be told you have to accept LGBT ideology than you should be told you must be in favour of Brexit, or must be Muslim – to both of which I’m sure most of you would quite rightly object.
I am aware that there will be a good few in our community who will have been struggling, if they feel they are being told that they must accept ideas which run counter to their faith – or indeed non-faith – based reasoning about the world.
So I want to say to everyone, but especially to those who have been troubled, that you are not obliged to accept someone else’s ideology. You are perfectly at liberty to hear ideas out, and then think, ‘No, not for me’.
There are several areas where many or most Christians (and, for that matter, people of other faiths, too), will be in disagreement with LGBT activists, and where you must make up your own mind. So it is perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law.
You may perfectly properly believe that, as an ideal, sexual activity belongs only within such marriage, and that therefore any other kind is morally problematic. That is the position of all the major faith groups – though note that it doesn’t apply only to same-sex couples.
And it is a belief based not only on scripture but on a highly positive view of marriage as the building block of a society where people of all kinds flourish, and on recognising that there are many positive things in life more important than sex, if only we’d let them be.
This viewpoint is recognised by many people as extremely liberating. And it’s an ethical position which could also be arrived at independently of any religious text, I think.
In other areas you are entitled to think, if it makes more sense to you, that human beings are indeed male and female, that your sex can’t be changed, that although the two sexes have most things in common, there are some real, biologically based differences between them overall. And if you think that, you would be in accord not only with the tradition of most Christians, and other faiths, but much of the biological and psychological sciences too.
You are entitled, if you wish, to look at some of the claims made about gender identity and think that it is incoherent to say that, for example, gender is quite independent of any biological factor, but that a person’s physiology should be changed to match his or her claimed gender; or incoherent to say that gender identity is both a matter of individual determination and social conditioning at the same time, or incoherent to make claims about being non-binary or gender-fluid by both affirming and denying the gender stereotypes which exist in wider society.
And if these claims, which do seem to be made, are incoherent, then they cannot be more than partially true. Yet truth is important as we try to make decisions about the consequences of these ideas.
And you might reasonably notice that some LGBT activists will happily lie about gender identity being a legally protected characteristic (which it isn’t), and from that observation wonder whether there are other areas where their relationship to truth is looser than might be ideal.
But, by way of contrast, no one has the right to tell you that you must lie about these matters, to say things you sincerely believe to be false – that is the tactic of totalitarianism and dictatorship.
On a more positive note, Christians will want to have a discussion about human identity which focuses on the things we all have in common, rather than increasingly long lists of things which might divide.
You might be concerned that if you take the religious view on these matters you will be attacked and accused of homophobia and the like. But remember that religious belief is just as protected in law as sexual orientation, and no one has the right to discriminate against you or be abusive towards you.
Remember too that ‘phobia’ words have a strict sense of extreme or irrational fear or dislike, like arachnophobia, fear of spiders, or triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number thirteen – well, there’s nothing extreme about sharing your view with the Church of England, established by law, and of the majority of the world’s population who belong to these faiths.
Nor is it irrational to hold these views, since they can be based both on secular reasoning and on scriptures – and if, on other grounds, you are sure that the scriptures reflect the mind of God, then they provide the very best reasons possible for anything.
But ‘homophobia’ and ‘transphobia’ have come to be used in a looser sense to mean often simply, ‘You disagree with me and I’m going to refuse to listen to you, and shame you to shut you down’. In other words, they have sometimes come to be terms of abuse, used in a dictionary-definition, bigoted and bullying way. You can safely ignore these uses, although that takes real moral courage, I know.
And you may think that LGBT rights are different somehow, because no one chooses to belong to the varied groups represented by these ideas. To which I would remind you that equalities law does not recognise that distinction – all equalities are in fact equal.
So, all in all, if you are at ease with ‘all this LGBT stuff’, you’re entitled to keep to those ideas; if you are not comfortable with it, for the various especially religious reasons, you should not feel required to change.
Whichever side of this conflict of ideas you come down on, or even if you are unsure of some of it, the most important thing is to remember that loving your neighbour as yourself does not mean agreeing with everything he or she says; it means that when we have these discussions there is no excuse for personal attacks or abusive language.
We should all respect that people on each side of the debate have deep and strongly held convictions. And because, unlike Brexit, this is not a debate which is subject to a vote, it is an ongoing process, so there should be a shared effort to find out what real truth looks like, and to respect that that effort is made honestly and sincerely by all people, even if not everybody comes up with the same answers for now.
Charity that wants to ban use of ‘boys and girls’
By Michael Powell for The Mail on Sunday
Taxpayers have paid out £250,000 to Educate & Celebrate to fund its mission to make schools more LGBT friendly.
The charity’s website says that it has worked in thousands of schools in the UK since 2012, running workshops and teacher training days. It also distributes books and lesson plans.
It was criticised in 2017 over a book it published that critics said promoted the use of puberty-blocker drugs for children as young as 12. The book for primary school pupils told the story of Kit, who used the drugs to transition from female to male. At the time, former Tory Party chairman Lord Tebbit said: ‘It is damaging to children to introduce uncertainty into their minds.’
Prescribing puberty-blocker drugs to children has become highly controversial and was effectively banned by High Court judges last year for most minors unless a court order had been obtained. This followed dire warnings from medics that the drugs were a ‘live experiment’ on hundreds of children.
Another of the charity’s guidebooks also controversially advises teachers that it is OK to help children get treatment for gender dysphoria – feeling you are the wrong sex – without telling their parents. The charity also advocates banning the use of the terms ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ in the classroom and encourages children to replace ‘he’ and ‘she’ with the gender-neutral terms ‘they’ and ‘zie’.
Schools are charged £1,200 to take part in its Pride In Inclusion Awards. To achieve Gold, they have to pay a further £1,000 over two years and introduce 30 LGBT-friendly policy changes – including hosting a fundraising day for the charity.
The charity was founded by former music teacher Dr Elly Barnes, who was made an MBE for her charity work in 2016.
She has links to the Socialist Workers Party and is a member of Schools OUT, a pressure group started by a Left-wing group of gay teachers in the 1970s. Last year, Dr Barnes attended a protest outside a meeting of a feminist group called Labour Women’s Declaration, who believe demands for rights from transgender pressure groups infringe the rights of women.
The charity’s chair of trustees is activist Julie Bremner, a Cabinet Office civil servant who has joined scores of Left-wing marches.
‘The hall was full of teachers chanting “Smash heteronormativity” (the view that attraction to the opposite sex is the norm). I felt uncomfortable’: Ex-Cambridge college chaplain on how his new job to guide young people became an Orwellian nightmare
By Ian Gallagher for The Mail on Sunday
A Monday morning, just before the start of term, and the teaching staff of Trent College are in the dining hall, chanting two-word slogans. It occurs to the school chaplain, the Reverend Dr Bernard Randall, sitting near the front, that the woman on whose every word they hang, Elly Barnes, possesses the fervour of a revivalist preacher. To others, the event might also seem redolent of a rally in a totalitarian state.
Dr Barnes runs an organisation called Educate & Celebrate. Standing at a lectern, she demonstrates with growing zeal how to ‘embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric’ of the school.
The next slogan, the syllable-crammed exhortation SMASH HETERONORMATIVITY flashes up on a giant screen and the teachers dutifully repeat it. Usually applied negatively, the term refers to the attitude that opposite sex attraction is the norm.
Reported: The Reverend Dr Bernard Randall, above, says Christians cannot speak their mind
Today, in an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Randall recalls that as others chanted he remained silent, deeply troubled by what he felt was the ‘revolutionary Marxist’ flavour of the language and the sentiments expressed.
‘The chanting was frankly bizarre and I felt uncomfortable,’ he says. ‘It was all very cleverly put together though – her rhetorical skills were impressive.
‘She started off slowly with general things about anti bullying and diversity, which no one could object to. But then the focus moved to gender identity and an introduction to the language of trans.
‘And there seemed to be an emphasis on instruction rather than suggestion.’
He found it embarrassing that Dr Barnes was giving teachers stickers bearing her group’s rainbow logo when they answered questions correctly.
When she overheard Dr Randall explaining the meaning of ‘cis-gender’ to an unenlightened colleague (it refers to someone who identifies with the sex into which they were born), he was offered a sticker. He declined.
T oday Dr Randall is without a job, his career in jeopardy. He pinpoints that day in September 2018 as the start of his troubles, although at the time he had no idea of the dark way in which events would unfold.
Certainly he could never have foreseen that his opposition to some, by no means all, of Educate & Celebrate’s creed would put him on a collision course with the school leadership team, in particular the deputy head, Jeremy Hallows, who is responsible for ‘pastoral’ matters in the school, and ‘designated safeguarding lead’ Justine Rimington.
Or that Ms Rimington would secretly report him to the Government’s anti-terrorism programme, Prevent, after he delivered a sermon that, he says, moderately and carefully presented the Christian viewpoint on identity questions.
‘I was terrified when I found out,’ recalls Dr Randall. ‘I had visions of being investigated by MI5, of men coming to my house at dawn and knocking down the front door. What was I supposed to tell my family? It was crazy.
‘I had gone to such lengths in the sermon to stress we must respect one another no matter what, even people we disagree with. I am not ashamed to say I cried with relief when I was told that the report to Prevent was not going to be taken further.’
Sitting in his clerical garb, Dr Randall doesn’t betray obvious signs of being a terrorist, extremist or radicalising firebrand.
The bespectacled 48-year-old Oxford graduate does fit the popular notion of a school chaplain however. Tolerant, kind, patient, he projects the right mixture of authority and benevolence.
Ordained in the Church of England, he is welcoming of people from all faiths and none. When in 2015, having answered an advert in the Church Times, he joined Trent College, an independent boarding school near Nottingham with a Christian ethos, he brought intellectual vigour to the role.
Previously, he was chaplain at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and the college’s director of studies for theology. What appealed about the new role – a ‘parish priest for the school community’ – was that it involved working with pupils of all ages.
‘I thought that if I could see a whole cohort through from preschool to sixth form, that would be a lovely thing to do,’ he says.
With some justification, head teacher Bill Penty remarked that the pastoral and spiritual care of the pupils was in safe hands.
Given what happened later, it is worth noting what Dr Randall claims his agreed role entailed. He would ‘share the Christian faith, and raise awareness of the spiritual dimension to life, and of spiritual and moral values which remain important whether we subscribe to a particular faith or not’.
The new chaplain settled in well. He taught classics and religious studies and ran an extra-curricular philosophy group.
In 2018, the school invited Educate & Celebrate – a group that goes into primary and secondary schools to give lessons on ‘gender diversity’ – to help staff navigate a changing world in which a kaleidoscope of alternative terms are used to describe gender and sexuality.
Dr Barnes does not favour, for instance, the terms ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ lest they discriminate against transgender pupils. Not that they got down to such specifics on the 2018 training day.
‘I had concerns beforehand but reserved judgment because I believe in freedom of speech,’ recalls Dr Randall.
Above all it was the focus on gender identity that bothered him, ‘the blurring of the biological distinctions between men and women’.
He says: ‘They were importing this identity politics kind of way of approaching things which comes from Marxist and postmodern roots which is fundamentally atheist.
‘They were bringing in this atheist worldview into a Christian school and my job as I saw it was to speak up a little bit about some of the difficulties that might raise.’
Dr Randall claims he was particularly aggrieved to hear Dr Barnes claim that ‘gender identity’ – an individual’s sense of having a particular gender – was a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act so at a suitable juncture he discreetly took her aside and pointed out this wasn’t the case.
He also took issue with what he says was her claim that as many people are born ‘intersex’ – in which a person may have genitalia or chromosomes from both sexes – as are born with ginger hair. He says after a short discussion she conceded that the data on the subject wasn’t reliable.
Dr Barnes did not respond to requests for comment.
Afterwards, Dr Randall raised concerns about how some of the ideas clashed with certain Christian beliefs and values.
He says he was assured by the school that he would be involved in any decision-making on whether the school would implement the programme.
This, he said, allayed his fears.
During another training session in January 2019, Dr Randall claims that he learned a decision had been made to pursue the Educate & Celebrate programme in full.
This involved trying to meet 30 targets to achieve ‘gold’ standard status. Dr Randall claims that one was the instruction for ‘all departments and faculties to ‘embed LGBT+ Inclusive lessons’.
Others included ‘holding a fundraiser for Educate & Celebrate’ and putting up an LGBT display in key areas of the school, ‘including reception, hall, theatre, corridors and library’. Despite previous assurances, he says that he was told that he had not been included in discussions ‘because he might disagree with it’.
Unsurprisingly Dr Randall was angry that he had been sidelined.
The school pressed ahead with the LGBT programme but Dr Randall says he was never consulted on how, for instance, it might be tailored to fit with the school’s stated position in support of ‘the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England’.
Around June 2019, Dr Randall says he was approached by a pupil who asked him: ‘How come we are told we have to accept all of this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?’
Others he talked to were similarly ‘upset, concerned or confused’ by the issues, he claims.
‘It was a school tradition that during the summer term pupils give me ideas for sermons,’ he says.
‘So I decided to address the school on some of the issues raised by pupils about Educate & Celebrate. Normally I speak off the cuff, but I decided to write this sermon – Competing Ideologies – beforehand because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.’
In one contentious passage he said that it is ‘perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law’.
Though he neglected to say that same-sex marriage was made law in 2013, he would later point out that he was referring to Church of England Canon Law, which has the force of statute law.
Dr Randall claims that the following week, he was pulled into a meeting and told the sermon had hurt some people’s feelings and undermined the LGBT agenda.
He was also told that it was ‘offensive’ to describe Dr Barnes as an ‘LGBT activist’, despite her describing herself as a ‘DIVA Activist of the Year’ on her Twitter profile at the time.
At one point he was challenged about a conversation in the staff room some years earlier.
He says: ‘I was overheard having a conversation about the appropriateness of a boy transitioning and then being in a girls’ boarding house.
‘And I think I said something along the lines of how it might cause difficulties and parents not being totally happy. That this conversation was recalled four years later was staggering.’
From then on the chaplain says he was a ‘marked man’.
Dr Randall then discovered by accident that he had been reported to Prevent and claims he was only casually told it would not be taken any further.
‘I came to another disciplinary meeting with many questions – one of them being, “Do you think the Church of England is a terrorist organisation?”
‘When it came to this point I was told, “No, er, we probably should have told you that the Prevent referral didn’t meet the threshold.”’
Following an investigation and disciplinary hearing, Dr Randall was sacked for gross misconduct but reinstated on appeal.
However, he claims he was told that he must comply with 20 conditions regarding future sermons.
He was reportedly banned from broaching ‘any topic or expressing any opinion (in Chapel or more generally around School) that is likely to cause offence or distress to members of the school body’.
Another stipulation was that ‘you will not publicly express personal beliefs in ways which exploit our pupils’ vulnerability.’
Future sermons had to be approved in advance, with a staff member observing to ensure each stipulation was met, he claims.
‘I see what has happened to me in Orwellian terms,’ he says.
‘I was doing the job I was employed to do. I wasn’t saying anything that I should not have been able to say in any liberal secular institution.
‘Everyone should be free to accept or reject an ideology. Isn’t that what liberal democracy means?’
Dr Randall will claim in his legal proceedings that life was made intolerable for him and that the school refused to reinstate his teaching timetable. In December, he was made redundant.
He says: ‘My story sends a message to other Christians that you are not free to talk about your faith. It 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.’