Felix Ngole is a Christian who was thrown off a social work course at Sheffield University because he wrote on Facebook in 2015 that he supported the Kentucky registrar who had refused to handle gay marriages and provided a link to a biblical quotation.
He lost an appeal that his rights to freedom of speech and thought had been breached. University bosses told the court that the issue was his “fitness to practise”. That should worry us, for it implies that belief begets judgment and that Mr Ngole would be constrained in his dealings with gay people to the detriment of carrying out his duties.
It is the teaching of most denominations of the Christian Church in this country (and for that matter of other religions too, including Islam) that homosexual acts are sinful. Are the courts seriously ruling that anybody who follows those teachings are “unfit to practise” as social workers?
Neither the Bible nor the Church teaches that homosexuality is uniquely sinful for we are all sinners who violate God’s law many times a day. The teaching is simply that any sexual relationship, whether homosexual, heterosexual or anythingelseosexual (of which there is a large variety these days), which happens outside a marriage recognised as lawful by the Church is a sin. So would a Christian be “unfit to practise” if he or she were a caseworker to a single mother with four children by four different fathers?
If the answer to that question is yes, then there must be an awful lot of unfit case workers out there. The reason that Mr Ngole has fallen foul of the university is that there is a different standard applied to attitudes towards gay marriage than to other arrangements, whereby it is necessary to affirm its moral legitimacy. The assumption is that if one cannot do so then one cannot deal appropriately and professionally with those engaged in it.
That is nonsense and is a view based not only on a misunderstanding of sin but also on a complete failure to understand the Christian differentiation between the sinner and the sin or the biblical warnings against judging others and casting stones.
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