A FORMER school chaplain referred by an independent school to the police under the Prevent counter-extremism programme is suing for discrimination, harassment, victimisation, and unfair dismissal.
The Revd Dr Bernard Randall, a former chaplain of Christ’s College, Cambridge, was chaplain at Trent College, Nottingham, a school with an Anglican foundation, from 2015 until last December, when he was made redundant. An account of events provided by Christian Concern, whose Christian Legal Centre is supporting Dr Randall, states that his dismissal followed a sermon in the school’s chapel in which he told pupils: “you do not have to accept the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists.”
The sermon was delivered in June 2019, after the school began working with the charity Educate and Celebrate, which provides LGBTI+ inclusion training for schools, offering to “embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your organisation”. Dr Randall says that he was excluded from discussions about the implementation of the charity’s programme after raising concerns about it.
In his sermon, he told pupils: “Since Trent exists ‘to educate boys and girls according to the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England’, anyone who tells you that you must accept contrary principles is jeopardising the school’s charitable status, and therefore its very existence.”
It was “perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman”, he said, and pupils were “entitled to think, if it makes more sense to you, that human beings are indeed male and female, that your sex can’t be changed, that although the two sexes have most things in common, there are some real, biologically based, differences between them overall”.
Christian Concern reports that the next week he was suspended and that the school subsequently reported him to police under the Prevent programme. On Tuesday, Derbyshire Police confirmed that a referral was received from Trent College in July 2019, but that it did not meet the threshold for a Prevent referral and no further action was taken.
In August 2019, Christian Concern reports, Dr Randall was told that the headmaster had concluded that his actions amounted to gross misconduct and that he would be dismissed. This decision was overturned by the school’s governors, but he was given a list of conditions regarding any future sermons, including prior sight by the school’s leadership and the prohibition of broaching “any topic or express[ing] any opinion (in Chapel or more generally around School) that is likely to cause offence or distress to members of the school body”.
The conditions also stated: “You will not publicly express personal beliefs in ways which exploit our pupils’ vulnerability.”
When lockdown was implemented in March last year, Dr Randall was furloughed. He was then told that his full-time hours would be reduced to seven hours per week; at the end of the year, he was made redundant.
A spokeswoman for Trent College said that it would not be appropriate for the school to provide any further comment at this time, in light of ongoing employment tribunal proceedings, scheduled for 14 June.