The subject may change, but the principle remains the same in yet another question of freedom

A school chaplain was reported to the government prevent programme, and subsequently made redundant, because of a sermon in which he stated that children did not have to accept the ideology of LGBT+ activists if they did not believe it. Dr Bernard Randall, former chaplain of Christ’s College, Cambridge, said the sermon was prompted 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. The sermon stressed the need to respect all people and their divergent views, but also stated, ‘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’. You can read the full text of the sermon at the end of this Mail on Sunday article.

In response to the sermon, the school reported Dr Randall to the Prevent programme on the grounds that his sermon might have been damaging to LGBT+ pupils. Prevent is a counter-terrorism programme designed to tackle radicalisation amongst Muslims. Derbyshire police, to whom the referal was made, said Dr Randall posed no terrorism threat or risk of radicalisation. Nevertheless, the schools still insisted that his chapel services would be monitored going forward and that his sermons must be censored. He was later dismissed by the school.

What prompted the sermon was a pupil in a Christian school asking why they had to accept LGBT+ ideology when it conflicted with the school’s Christian ethos. The question was a reasonable one and the chaplain’s sermon addressing it was a reasonable response. Throughout the message, the importance of respecting different ideologies and people was stressed. There was no anti-LGBT+ messaging in it, just a statement that one didn’t have to believe it, particularly when it conflicts with other deeply held Christian beliefs. It was a call for tolerance and respect of all people and views.

Sadly, we have entered a world in which LGBT+ activists are not content with tolerance. Instead, they insist on absolute affirmation and will brook no dissent. The school, in reporting Dr Randall to the Prevent programme are insisting that disagreeing with their political ideology (and, make no mistake, that is exactly what it is) is tantamount of actual violent terrorism. You simply would not choose this particular means of reporting were it not so. We are in the world of ‘words are literal violence’ and, going further than that, are now considered to be acts of terror.

What is more, we are living in a world where a Christian school, with a legal duty – thanks to its charitable status – to uphold its Christian ethos believes it is legitimate to report their Christian chaplain for daring to suggest that Christian doctrine might conflict at points with LGBT+ dogma. More ludicrous still, the chaplain was no suggesting that people should not believe LGBT+ ideology (as being presented by Educate and Celebrate). Quite the opposite. He was saying nobody should force anybody else to believe any particular dogma, Christian or LGBT+. But in presenting a positive case for Christian sexual ethics and suggesting that it was acceptable to believe it, despite saying clearly that one wasn’t compelled to do so, he was deemed to have offended LGBT+ dogma which insists that everybody must affirm it or face the consequences.

You don’t have to be a Christian, or hold to traditional Christian sexual ethics, to be concerned by this. The sermon was a response to questions raised by pupils. In taking this line, especially in light of Dr Randall’s call to respect and tolerance for differing views, the school is telling pupils that they are not permitted to think for themselves or believe what seems right to them. As a fee paying school with an Evangelical underpinning, it is saying to any Evangelical parents that their children are not welcome in their school should they hold to normal Christian ethics. Should it be upheld in court, we are saying that even suggesting that traditional Christian ethics are legitimate is now a sackable offence.

But even if you are not a Christian and don’t agree with Dr Randall’s view, you should be equally worried. If this stands, we are saying that there are views and beliefs – no matter how graciously or reasonably stated – that cannot be thought or uttered. Who are the real extremists here? The chaplain presenting the 2000 year old teaching of the church, in a Christian school that claims to have a Christian ethos, who also stressed the need for respect and tolerance, or the school that tells pupils what they must think and that if they do not affirm the political ideology of an LGBT+ campaign group they will not be welcome in their school and should not be allowed to work in public life?

Even people who do not share Christian mores should be worried about this. The only guarantee that you will be permitted to say what you want, and hold onto your own jobs, is if you are clear that other people should be allowed to say what they want. If we insist that a message of respect for all views is a reason to be dismissed, we cannot be surprised if we soon find our own views are given short shrift.

Even if we reckon that we hold to pretty mainstream views that wouldn’t be considered offensive, many others have thought that too – were even on the side of the so-called progressives insisting that certain words and thoughts were beyond the pale – yet have found that their right-on views of yesteryear have become the offensive literal violence that has found itself prohibited today. Many are finding that they do indeed reap what they sow, which if they had spent more time reading the Bible rather than trying to get portions of it forbidden, they would have read years ago. As ever, the lesson remains the same: the only guarantee that we will have the right to say and think the things we want to is when we insist on the rights of others to do the same, no matter how offensive I may find their views and opinions.