THE expulsion of a Christian student from his Master’s course in social work, for posting a comment on Facebook in support of a traditional view of marriage, has been defended by the University of Sheffield.
The student, Felix Ngole, aged 38, posted a comment in September in support of Kim Davis, the marriage clerk from Kentucky who refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples despite a ruling from the US Supreme Court (Comment, 25 September 2015). Reports suggest that he also quoted a line from Leviticus 18.22.
After a subsequent investigation by the university’s Fitness to Practice panel, Mr Ngole was told that he was being withdrawn from the course because his comments “may have caused offence to some individuals”, and that he had “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social-work profession”.
Mr Ngole is appealing against the decision. In a statement issued through the Christian Legal Centre, he said: “My beliefs about marriage and sexual ethics reflect mainstream, biblical understanding, shared by millions around the world. Simply expressing that understanding, in a personal capacity, on my Facebook page, cannot be allowed to become a bar to serving and helping others in a professional capacity as a social worker. . .
“If universities are now to scrutinise their students’ social-media accounts, then students should be warned about that at the very start of their studies, and should be given the opportunity to decide whether it is the sort of university they want to attend.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the university said that it was “absolutely committed to the freedom of speech for students, staff, and the wider university community”, but that, in courses leading to “vocations that require accreditation”, they had to apply the regulatory guidance of the appropriate body, in this case the Health and Care Professions Council.
Mr Ngole’s appeal against his expulsion would be “carried out with the utmost care, referencing guidelines of the national regulatory body”, the spokesperson said.