Vindicated – but ruined: In a historic victory, a Christian demoted at work after writing on Facebook that he opposed gay marriage in church tells how his battle has come at a terrible price

By Andrew Pierce.

Adrian Smith was demoted after writing on Facebook that gay marriage was 'an equality too far'

Adrian Smith was demoted after writing on Facebook that gay marriage was ‘an equality too far’

As a devout Christian, Adrian Smith was disturbed to read a report that gay marriages may be permitted in church.

So he went onto his Facebook page and posted four words summarising his own position. ‘An equality too far,’ he wrote.

But those four words, even though they were seen by only a few dozen friends and work colleagues, triggered a major battle over freedom of speech which finally ended yesterday.

Mr Smith, a tireless charity supporter who works for Trafford Housing Trust, had become a victim of the increasingly aggressive war against so-called hate crimes.

After a work colleague complained that his comment was offensive (despite having not seen the post), Mr Smith, a family man and lifelong Labour voter, was disciplined, had his job downgraded and his salary cut by £14,000. But yesterday, after a bitter and protracted court fight to overturn the decision, the married father-of-two won a landmark victory.

His triumph comes in the wake of a series of recent claims by Christians that they have been discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.

For example, there was the bed and breakfast owner who lost her battle to refuse a gay couple a double room and who felt punished for her religious beliefs.

In Mr Smith’s case, his employers claimed he broke their code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers.

But Mr Justice Briggs, in London’s High Court, yesterday ruled that the housing trust did not have a right to demote Mr Smith as his Facebook postings did not amount to misconduct.

He said the comment about gays marrying in church was not — viewed objectively — judgmental, disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence, and was expressed in moderate language.

As for the content, it was a widely held view frequently heard on radio and television, or read in the newspapers.

Idyllic: Mr Smith lives with his wife Hilary in the picturesque Lancashire village of Tottington (pictured)Idyllic: Mr Smith lives with his wife Hilary in the picturesque Lancashire village of Tottington (pictured)

The judge also said he had ‘real disquiet’ about the financial outcome for Mr Smith, who has been left in parlous economic straits.

His damages were limited by the court to just £98. This is because the trust failed to give him three months’ notice of his demotion. The £98 represents the loss in income until such notice was given a few days later.

After his victory, Mr Smith, 55, spoke to me exclusively about his ordeal as a victim of a new breed of witch-finder generals who obsessively hunt down the slightest deviation from the doctrines of political correctness.

It led to his being suspended from his job at Trafford Housing Trust and later demoted, with his salary cut by 40 per cent to £21,300. Mr Smith, who lives with his wife Hilary in the picturesque Lancashire village of Tottington, is a member of an evangelical church in Bolton and maintains he would go to court again to stand up for his principles.

‘It is important that a line is drawn in the sand for Christians who are being persecuted for their beliefs.

'Disquieted': Mr. Justice Michael Briggs said Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong‘Disquieted’: Mr. Justice Michael Briggs said Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong

‘The truth is that it is our accusers who are the intolerant ones because they refuse to accept that there is room for more than one shade of opinion,’ he said.

But despite his court triumph, Mr Smith is close to financial ruin. His savings are exhausted. Also, his career is in tatters after 18 years at Trafford Council and then the Trafford Housing Trust, which manages 9,000 homes in the Sale area of Greater Manchester.

Even though the court ruled in his favour, the Trust refuses to reinstate him to his former managerial post or restore the £14,000 pay cut.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Briggs said: ‘Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct, and then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40 per cent reduction in salary.

‘The breach of contract which the trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory.’

But because of complicated rules covering contract law, the judge was only able to offer Mr Smith £98 in damages. A clearly frustrated Mr Justice Briggs went on to say: ‘A conclusion that his damages are limited to less than £100 leaves the uncomfortable feeling that justice has not been done to him. I must admit to real disquiet about the financial outcome of this case.’

This sorry saga started 19 months ago when Mr Smith posted a link on his Facebook page to an article about gay marriage on the BBC website.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234252/Vindicated–ruined-In-historic-victory-Christian-demoted-work-writing-Facebook-opposed-gay-marriage-church-tells-battle-come-terrible-price.html#ixzz2CXdKwFm9
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