Demoted for Expressing an Opinion

This story is extraordinary. Extraordinary!

A housing manager has been demoted, and his salary slashed, after he criticised a controversial new gay rights law.

Adrian Smith, a Christian, was found guilty of gross misconduct by his publicly funded housing association for saying that allowing gay weddings in churches was ‘an equality too far’.

He posted the comment in his own time, on his personal page on the Facebook website, which could not be read by the general public.

But after a disciplinary hearing, he was downgraded from his £35,000-a-year managerial job to a much less senior £21,000 post – and avoided the sack only because of his long service.

Mr Smith, 54, is now taking the association to court, arguing that his punishment was out of proportion and his right to free speech was ignored.

Friends said last night the father of two had been ‘shocked and distressed’ by his treatment and would now face financial hardship.

Campaigners attacked the housing association’s decision – the latest in a series of cases in which Christians have clashed with employers – as a ‘complete over-reaction’ by an organisation ‘drenched in political correctness’.

Mr Smith has worked for 18 years for Trafford Council and Trafford Housing Trust, which manages more than 9,000 homes in Sale, Greater Manchester.

But he now finds his career in tatters over a comment he wrote on his personal Facebook page one Sunday morning in response to a BBC story headlined ‘Gay church “marriages” get go-ahead’. The story referred to Government plans to lift the ban on homosexual couples holding civil partnerships in churches and other religious settings.

Service: Mr Smith has worked for 18 years for Trafford Council and Trafford Housing Trust

Mr Smith, whose Facebook profile identified him as working for the Trust as a housing manager, commented: ‘An equality too far.’

A few hours later, one of his Facebook friends, a work colleague whose identity is not known to The Mail on Sunday, posted: ‘Does this mean you don’t approve?’

The following evening after work, Mr Smith, who attends an evangelical church in Bolton, responded: ‘No, not really. I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church.

‘The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women. If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the State; but the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.’

Lawyers for Mr Smith, whom friends describe as affable and non-confrontational, say his comments were merely expressing an ‘honest belief’ based on his Christian faith.

The proposed new law, on which the Government is consulting, will allow churches to open their doors to gay ceremonies if they wish, although the Church of England is refusing to participate.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, is among those to have criticised the plan for blurring the ‘clear distinction’ between homosexual partnerships and heterosexual marriage.

Mr Smith was disciplined after a second colleague complained to the Trust’s ‘equality and diversity lead’, Helen Malone.

A few days later, Mr Smith was summoned from his home to a meeting at the Trust’s headquarters in Sale, where he was told he was being suspended while the complaint was investigated.

He was warned that even though his Facebook page could be viewed only by registered friends, rather than by the general public, those readers included colleagues who had taken issue with his comments.

A shocked Mr Smith, who managed a team looking after local housing issues, immediately removed the reference to where he worked from the page.

The following month he was called to a disciplinary meeting before Mike Corfield, the Trust’s Assistant Director, Customers. Although Mr Smith was allowed to put his case, insiders described the meeting as ‘tense and fraught’.

According to legal documents lodged at Manchester County Court, Debbie Gorman, a ‘neighbourhood manager’ also at the meeting, said Mr Smith’s comment could cause offence.

She said she had interpreted it as saying ‘gay people are not as equal as people who are not gay’ and that the comment could be viewed as homophobic.

Mr Corfield said it was not the comment but its potential misinterpretation that was at issue, but still ruled that Mr Smith had committed a serious breach of discipline for which he could be dismissed.

But because of his loyal service, Mr Smith was instead demoted to money support adviser, handling rent collection. His pay was reduced to £21,396, phased in over a year, and he was given a final written warning.

Mr Smith has been advised he cannot speak to the press, but his solicitor Tom Ellis, of Aughton Ainsworth in Manchester, said: ‘Adrian was shocked and distressed to have been disciplined in this way. He never expected this to happen – it came completely out of the blue.

‘We sent a letter to the Trust asking that Adrian be given back his job but they refused to respond substantively. Adrian had no other choice but to seek justice through the court.

‘As a Christian, Adrian believes in the values of fairness, courtesy and respect for the opinions of others. Surely that leaves room for colleagues to discuss and even disagree about the topics of the day? 

‘Conversations like that happen in offices and factories up and down the country every day.

‘When Adrian was told that he was being demoted with a 40 per cent cut in salary, he was stunned. It was all the more shocking because this was being done in the name of equality and diversity.

‘Nothing he said was offensive or abusive. His comments were calm, measured and reasonable.

‘Adrian has been treated disproportionately. Even those who disagree with his opinions will surely agree that he has been treated badly.’

An internal appeal upheld the original decision, except to rule that the reduction in Mr Smith’s pay would be phased in over two years.

Mr Smith’s lawyers say his comments fall far short of gross misconduct and they are claiming damages equivalent to his lost pay.

They also dispute that Mr Smith has broken the Trust’s code of conduct, which bans staff from making ‘derogatory’ comments about it.

They say the Trust has breached his contract because no attempt was made to resolve the row except through the disciplinary procedure.

Although Mr Smith was forced to undergo equality training in 2008 after a Muslim woman alleged he had not treated her fairly, his lawyers said this was irrelevant to the current case.

In 2007, he was praised by the Trust’s £145,000-a-year chief executive, Matthew Gardiner, for his charity work among poor women and children in Uganda.

Last year, the Trust, which employs 360 staff, was awarded a ‘quality mark’ from a gay support group for its work training staff in recognising homophobic hate crime.

But it has also angered a number of elderly residents by ordering them to remove garden benches and flower pots from outside their flats for health-and-safety reasons.

The organisation, which took over homes in 2005 from Trafford Council, receives most of its money in rent from tenants, but it can also apply for public money and last month won Government funds for an £8 million new project.

Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, which is backing the case, said: ‘We’re not talking about a Christian who shoves his opinions down the throats of his colleagues.

‘Mr Smith made completely tame and inoffensive remarks outside of work time on his personal Facebook page. His bosses should get some sense of perspective.

‘It is a complete over-reaction by a housing trust that is clearly drenched in political correctness.’

But Trust commercial director David Barrow said: ‘The Trust has an equal opportunities policy and Mr Smith’s comments on Facebook, where he identified himself as a Trust employee, went against this policy.

‘We expect employees at all levels to act respectfully. This applies in person and on social media.’

Extraordinary. For having a conversation much tamer then some of the things that people leave as comments on this blog (not to mention the stuff that doesn’t get past my homophobia filter) a man is demoted. And don’t forget, this is for expressing an opinion on a piece of legislation that is currently not even on the statute book but being considered!

Mind boggling as we speak.

112 Comments on “Demoted for Expressing an Opinion

  1. @Jill. @saekker. <B> whom were probably there long before the idea of gay marriage came into public consciousness.</B> Irrelevant. Many people worked in environments prior to notions of gender or race equality, that does not give them a free pass to be ignore such concepts.

    <B>You will never, ever, get the whole world to agree that something is a good idea which goes so violently against nature.</B>

    Actually, the desire for companionship is perfectly “natural” . And, in a free society, (c.f. the list of illustrious cities that have already legalised gay marriage), people do not have to agree that something is a “good idea” for it to be legal. Do you think drinking is a good idea? Or atheism? Or smoking? Or Islam? Or believing in socialism? I’m guessing “no”, but I’m also guessing that you don’t exactly spend a lot of time trying to make those things illegal. I’m pretty sure that most people, certainly in the UK, would, if forced to choose, live in gay-marriage supporting New York in the free democracy of the United States rather than any of the countries that currently criminalize homosexuality. Ironic also, that such anti-gay theocractic Islamic countries are places where Christians are *genuinely* persecuted. Compare and contrast with Christians in the UK!

  2. <B> Read the Bible! </B>

    Unfortunately for you, many people who read the Bible become sensible, normal Christians; it is not a recruitment tool for the theocratic homophobic, “The Family” first, God second Daily Heil cause. This makes as much sense as your use of “Taxpayer’s Money” as a heterosexual-conservative only resource (gay don’t pay taxes? Man, no wonder schools are promoting it so heavily!)

    <B>As Peter Hitchens says in his blog, there people who still think you can change human nature, which you sort of can if you have concentration camps and an effective secret police</B>

    Isn’t Christianity per se an exercise in changing human nature? Concentration camps? Like the ones that gay people were in under the Nazis? Now, that’s persecution. Compare and contrast with (e.g.) the “Christian” Institute, who regard themselves as persecuted because fag-baiting is no longer (as) acceptable in polite society. Think also of the days when people could be fired for being gay and had to be eternally vigilant – now that’s a state of affairs warranting analogies with the secret police. Interesting also that the only one on this thread who appears to want to ban and censor is you, Jill (c.f. your points on the Terrence Higgins Trust, although you are of course misrepresenting the nature of the material they offer for schools). I’ve actually read Hitchens’ “The Abolition of Britian” (and it’s a shame that Simon Heffer, another writer I enjoy, isn’t at the Telegraph anymore). He deserves plaudits for looking at the dangers of anti-depressants, although it’s curious that he simultaneously invokes the most extreme end of the psychiatric consensus when it comes time to link cannabis with schizophrenia. Hitchens also rightly looks at the significance of the pill in terms of revolutionizing sexual ethics. The problem is that, even if someone loathes homosexuality, that does not mean that they’ll necessarily think much of societies that condemn it e.g. the Britain of a hundred years ago, especially if they are female, or working class, or black, or disabled. The “gay agenda” is in fact a natural continuation of that process of inclusion and liberation so, although many homophobes are indeed genuinely ignorant of history, is is highly disingenuous to paint a picture of the “good old days” as if we lived in a freer and better society. We did not. And of course the rich got richer under New Labour so this is hardly a “lefty” point!

  3. You’re at it again, Ryan, going off at a tangent! Does Mr Smith say that he thinks gays should be fired? Did he mention Nazis and concentration camps? Did I really misrepresent the teaching materials of the Terrence Higgins Trust, or did I merely suggest that Internet-savvy children are likely to look up the site on their computers and find a lot more than their parents would wish them to see?

    You must stop twisting what people say and then attacking them for it. You also seem to have a warped view of family advocates. Homophobia, in your eyes, appears to be wishing ill on people of homosexual inclination. This is so far from true that it would be laughable if it were not so sad.

    PS: As 99 per cent of taxpayers are not gay, this seems to suggest that they pay the most taxes. I might be wrong, of course.

    • @Jill

      <B>As 99 per cent of taxpayers are not gay, </B>

      Wrong. Of course if you do give authoritative weight to the 2010 uk study then you also have to account for the 2005 one, which put the figure of gay people at 6%. If those figures are accurate, then it hardly sounds like the “gay lobby” is much to worry about, does it? Homosexuals can hardly have been ‘recruiting’ Our Children to their wicked ways if their numbers have declined so dramatically in such a short space of time, no? Of course, suppose you could always blame the AIDS.

      <B> this seems to suggest that they pay the most taxes. I might be wrong, of course.</B>

      Given that you’re such a fan of survey results, then surely you must know about the broadly tolerant and positive cultural attitudes (relatively speaking) towards homosexuality in the UK? If you think anything like 99% of taxpayers are reactionary homophobes then you are, indeed, wrong (and in any case we do not, in a free society, vote on the civil rights of others) I’m reminded of your equally ludicrous claim that I’d think differently about teh gays if I had kids – all parents being homophobes of course! (or not so much)

      • My view of the Terrence Higgins Trust is entirely shaped by their website. Once one gets beyond the innocuous-looking facade of the homepage one encounters manuals on revolting and dangerous, immoral and degrading sexual practices illustrated in Below the Belt and The Bottom Line. Sorry, but I strongly and vehemently object to my grandchildren looking at publications such as these. I cannot see the purpose of THT going into schools if not to direct children to their website, whether they do so openly or not. It is a bit like discovering that your teacher is a porn star in her spare time. I am sure this would not go down too well with parents. If it is libellous for me to say so, then so be it.

        Interestingly enough, a study came out today from BRIN about the numbers of Christians who approve of gay marriage. It seems a lot of us are unhinged and abnormal, in your eyes, as 83% are opposed. Let us assume that there are more Christians than gays in the UK, and watch David Cameron backpedal on the gay marriage idea


        Some people read the Guardian too often.

        • @Jill Let us assume that there are more Christians than gays in the UK, and watch David Cameron backpedal on the gay marriage idea

          The same David Cameron who is a “heir to Blair” and who became Prime Minister because he successfully “detoxified” the Tory brand? I’m sure he’s all too aware that the Pro-Gay New Labour won three elections in a row, whilst the “nasty party” Tories dwelled in the dolldrums!

          Homophobia is, alas, not quite the vote-winner it once was.

  4. @Jill Not a tangent, am contrasting real and fake examples of “persecution” to show up the “Gay Agenda” nonsense for the poison it is.

    No Jill, you accused Terrence Higgins Trust of being “predatory heterosexuals” in the Section 28 sense i.e. paedophilic. Let me stress again that you are here tipping over into the literally libellious. I suppose it’s a triumph of sorts that, after endless occasions where you deliberately made it sound like THT had been teaching fisting et all in schools, that you’ve conceded that the material they recommend for schools does no such thing. And, again, heterosexual pornography is far, far more likely to be a problem for “internet-savvy children” than is material aimed AT ADULTS on the THT website. Homophobia, in your eyes, appears to be wishing ill on people of homosexual inclination. LOL! For the record, are you willing to concede that gay people very much have been a persecuted minority? c.f. death penalty and imprisonment for those acts in this country. Also, if you asked 100 gay people what they thought about your ideological position do you really not think that they’d think it constitutes “wishing ill”? ‘Agitation to ban (or keep banned) certain groups from equal rights (and rites) is demonstrably “wishing ille”, irrespective of what you claim to be your motivation. As for the word homophobia: heterosexist is , of course, a superior term for the prejudice but attempts to make it stick invariably lead to laughing at the silly pooves and their made-up words. The word “anti-semite” was coined *by* a Jew hater to give the prejudice a more scientific ring, and it makes little literal sense (arabs being “semites” too). Yet when it comes to anti-Jewish prejudice society, rightly, considers tackling such prejudice and persecution is better than coming up for better name for it. Serious question: do you really think any gay person – or non-bigot- is likely to be impressed by someone pointing out that they don’t technically “fear or hate” (as with phobia) gay people, they just want to deny them equal rights? O well, I guess that’s all right then! Sorry for the misunderstanding! ;-)

  5. @Jill Jill. encounters manuals on revolting and dangerous, immoral and degrading sexual practices illustrated in Below the Belt and The Bottom Line. Firstly, do you concede that this material is not, in fact, being taught in schools so you were lying (or lets be charitable) engaged in accidental misrepresentation when you implying it does? Secondly, surely you appreciate that NO parent or grandparent is likely to want to contemplate their little darlings as sexual beings? But assuming that they ARE going to have sex, isn’t it best that they do so safely? I think many a parent would say the idea of their lovely little daughters having good old fashioned missionary position, heterosexual sex is “disgusting” too.

    Would you condemn a heterosexual sexual health charity for “encouraging” fornication? I reminded of you claiming (scroll down) that teenagers would never try or know about “sodomy” if not for the evil “THT”. No offence, but are you REALLY so naive that you think things like anal sex are somehow a “gay” invention? Did teenage boys only start to be interested in oral sex after teh Gay Agenda kicked in? Of course not. Oh, and why don’t you ask some teenage boys, preoccupied with Nuts, Zoo and internet porn, if they’ll try gay sex because THT told them too? (!) I dare say that most of them share your emetic reaction to the idea.

    • @cerebusboy

      Ryan, all this is pointless. Do you not understand the difference between kids looking at stuff on the Internet at home when they reach the age of curiosity and kids at a vulnerable age having things thrust upon them by their teachers, who stand in loco parentis, with state backing? Do you think that smoking behind the bicycle shed with your mates is the same as being handed cigarettes by the school nurse? (Telling you to be sure to use filter tips, of course!) If you cannot see the difference here, then there is nothing more I can say.

      I could produce all kinds of evidence of the psychological damage inflicted on children by having this kind of information thrust upon them before they are ready to understand it. I am not opposed to sex education in schools, but I am certainly opposed to the current push to enforce it on younger and younger children, and to have images of deviant sexual practices on readily available websites of gay – or indeed any other – organisations brought into schools, which parents would certainly not allow.

      • @cerebusboy

        As for reducing HIV/AIDS, men who have sex with men remain the group most at risk of becoming infected. New diagnoses have increased by 70% in the past 10 years. Can this appalling statistic really be unconnected with state championship of homosexuality over the same period? Are we really making sex ‘safe’ for young people by this constant barrage?

        • @cerebusboy

          There seems to be double standards operating here. Some of you seem to think it is perfectly okay for a man to be demoted and fined for posting a comment on his private facebook page (not in the workplace in front of colleagues, note, nor to his employers) on a topic which has nothing to do with his employment (I think they are there to provide homes, not to enforce ideology), but it is not okay for people like me to object to organisations such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, with a fixed agenda and a graphic (and very public) website, inflicting their ideology on children without the consent – and very probably knowledge – of their parents.

          I cannot help wondering what the Trafford Housing Trust would do if they discovered that some of their prospective clients held the same views on marriage as Mr Smith. Would they refuse to help them?

        • @Jill State championships? There’s a -very sill -y common gay erotic fantasy about the “straight” guy who is turned and encouraged to try gay sex. I find it very amusing when conservatives like yourself also seem to invoke this stereotype. Are we really to believe that lots of people who WOULDN’T have gay sex suddenly did so, because, what, it’s the trendy thing to do? Let me stress again that most straight guys share your disgust for homosexuality, and have a “as long as they don’t do it on the street and scare the horses” live-and-let-live attitude which compares favorably to nonsense about “promoting” homosexuality.

          And if I didn’t use “safer” sex up there I should have. Would you agree that it’s perfectly possible to believe that – ideally- no-one would have unsafe sex but that the *actual evidence does not necessarily suggest* that abstinance ed works?

          Take drugs. “Just Say No” was morally attractive, but it was a total failure. I gather kids today, in contrast, will know all about the various kinds of drugs and their dangers – with good reason, because, if they didn’t, and they were offered drugs, they would hardly be in a position to know the real name, chemical processes danger etc etc of the drug. Similarly, I fail to see how kids knowing *of* gay sex in the safer sex sense is an incitement to try it. Isn’t knowledge power?

          The HIV/AIDS rates are indeed troubling. One reason, however, is an attitude that if you do get HIV you can “just take a pill” and get on with it. Let me stress that such attitudes are ignorant and deplorable. But, again, it depends on what you’re comparing it too. You’d find it hard to have a more anti-gay goverment than the (conservative, Christian) Reagan administration – and its “we die, you do nothing” attitude and piled-up AIDS corpses hardly, to say the least, validates the homophobia+abstinance approach.

        • @Jill Actually Jill, I’m something of a free-speech purist; compare and contrast with your view of the Terrence Higgins Trust, eh?

        • @cerebusboy

          Hah! There is a limit to free speech. I understand that there was a giant hoo-hah with the BBC over a remark some comedian (David Walliams??) made about Justin Bieber after the watershed (I won’t repeat the comment) and there was a huge protest. I thought to myself – these people know nothing! If only they knew about what the Terrence Higgins Trust had on their website, and that they were going into schools, there would be even more of a hoo-hah. Doing what Walliams said is nothing by comparison.

          Anyhow, there is no point continuing this conversation. As I said before, it is quite apparent that we live on different planets.

        • @Jill Hmm, doesn’t that remind you of Julian Clary’s famous Norman Lamont joke, roundly condemned by the “conservative” press? Plus, it involved fisting, which suits your all-gay-men-are-rimiming-fisting-proto-paedos stereotypes!

          And are you really so ignorant that you think you have a unique ability to check out the Terrence Higgins Trust website? Unfortunately for you, I think most people realise that an useful, moral AIDS charity doesn’t stop being a useful, moral AIDS just because it is material on their website you object to (although I’m guessing you’d also object to two men merely *kissing*, so that’s not saying much!) You might want to contemplate on the implications of the fact that your ideological team LOST , resoundingly, the “Keep the Clause” debate.

          Also: if the Terrence Higgins Trust removed the material you object to from their website right now, would you then have no problem with them going into schools? Of course not. So why keep going on about it?

          Earlier in this thread you used “gay activists” to describe a charity that helps the homeless. And now you’re using paedo-comparisons to refer to an AIDS charity. Seriously, if that’s not evidence of the basest kind of gutter-prejudice, than what is? Can you really see no problem with referring to the “Jew Agenda” or the “Black Agenda”? Of course not. So why is “The Gay Agenda” any more reality-based and non-pejorative?

          The difference is, Jill, is that I offer arguments and that I’m more than willing to have my opinions challenged, whereas you seem to think that mere reiteration of “I’m not homophobic, but…” or “the gay agenda!” or “Save our Children!” vapid hot-buttons imbues them factual weight and merit. Pax!

      • @Jill <B> Ryan, all this is pointless. Do you not understand the difference between kids looking at stuff on the Internet at home when they reach the age of curiosity and kids at a vulnerable age having things thrust upon them by their teachers, who stand in loco parentis, with state backing</B>

        Of course, which is why I keep making the point, that you keep ignoring, that the THT are not going into school to ENCOURAGE kids to try fisting etc etc, with state backing

        <B> I could produce all kinds of evidence of the psychological damage inflicted on children by having this kind of information thrust upon them before they are ready to understand it.</B>

        Presumably why the THT ADULT material is exactly that, eh?

        <B> I am not opposed to sex education in schools, but I am certainly opposed to the current push to enforce it on younger and younger children </B>

        Which is a completely different point. OF COURSE children who are too young and not ready to to understand sex ought not to be introduced to graphic material. But why is that a ‘gay’ issue? Again, let me make the point that the premature sexualisation of GIRLS and the ready availability of HETEROSEXUAL porn is surely a far bigger problem than the gays?

  6. @Jill <B>It seems a lot of us are unhinged and abnormal, in your eyes, as 83% are opposed.</B> And, no offence, how many times do I need to type a variation of “in a free society we should not vote on the civil rights of others” before the point sticks? And from the survey itself: <B>Hostility was particularly concentrated among the over-65s (90%), compared with 26% support in the 18-34 cohort.</B> Exactly. Quite a change eh? And hardly suggestive of your view that all “normal” people are homophobic eh? Care to make a prediction on what the numbers would be like 15 to 30 years from now? And that’s aside from the fact that your kind of Christian has no problem with SECULAR marriage, making it self-evidently ludicrous when gays – not Muslims, Jews, atheists, humanists, satanists, or any one/thing else – are singled out as the only group that can’t marry. We don’t live in a theocracy (and I’d love to see the results of any referendum suggesting we should). And you know and I know that whenever the C of E produces figures on the amount of “Christians” in the UK they count pretty much everyone who’s been baptised, or attends on Christmas and Easter for sentimental reasons. Homophobic evangelicals are a tiny minority of that number – and RC parishioners with sufficient cultural memory will know of the bad old (theocratic) days before Catholic Emancipation, making it unsurprising that a significant number of Catholics-in-the-pew have as much time for gay persecution as they do Birth Control.

  7. <B> If it is libellous for me to say so, then so be it. </B>

    No, the libellous part is your claim that THT are “predatory homosexuals” in the Section 28 sense i.e. paedophilic. If you want to compare gay people to paedophiles then knock yourself out – it’s usefully revealing – but perhaps you stop objecting to accusations of prejudice. Gay people=paedophiles is a dehumanising slur on a par with “Jews=big noses, money-grabbing” and “blacks=crime, stupidity and watermelon”.

  8. I cannot see the purpose of THT going into schools if not to direct children to their website

    Yes, why would a HIV/AIDS charity go into schools, if not to spread their evil secret agenda! They couldn’t possibly be trying to help prevent kids from contracting HIV and advising on safer sex! Plainly, any ‘gay’ charity must have an Elders-of-Zion style evil agenda, kept secret from the world, yet strangely available to any Concerned Parent with an internet connection.

    Sorry, but this is tinfoil-hat level paranoia.

    And : you accept that SOME kids are going to grow up gay? Surely it’s better that they DON’T have unsafe sex and contract HIV? Again, I’m reminded of the curious dichotomy at the heart of homophobia, where homosexuality is both a revolting perversion that makes most people want to vomit and SIMULTANEOUSLY something that people will try if we merely talk about it in terms other than medieval condemnation.

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