Christian student expelled from uni for 'expressing religious beliefs' on Facebook

A Christian student has been expelled by the University of Sheffield after he "expressed his religious beliefs" on Facebook.

Felix Ngole, who hopes to be a social worker, took to Facebook to express sympathy for an American marriage clerk who objected to issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples. Commenting on the post, he allegedly quoted a Leviticus passage that labels gay people "an abomination". Two months later he was expelled by his university. The University is now being accused of breaking the Human Rights Act.

"Offensive" bible quote

Felix, 38, was a second-year post-grad student at Sheffield University when he shared a Facebook post saying "I stand with Kim Davis" - the US clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. He then quoted a bible passage that says "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination".

Two months after this the University asked him to attend a meeting to discuss the post. He was then referred to a fitness to practice committee, who ejected him from the course.

The committee said its decision was not based on his views but the fact he publicly posted them, which they say "may have caused offence to some individuals".

A letter the committee sent to Mr Ngole stated his actions had "transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social work profession" and ordered him to hand in his student card.

Students entering caring professions, such as Social Workers, therapists and teachers, are often warned as part of their course not to express these kinds of beliefs on social media for fear of alienating those under their care. People entering these professions who want to express themselves more freely are advised to use a pseudonym on Facebook, which is why you'll often find someone you've been friends with for several years suddenly has a bizarre name change.

Felix did neither, and expressed views which would probably compromise any interactions he might have with gay people in his future role of a social worker.

"My beliefs are shared by millions"

Mr Ngole believes he shouldn't be expelled from the course, and wants his place at Sheffield back. He told Christian Concern that he was being discriminated against on religious grounds, and compared the decision to expel him for the post to action taken by soviet Russia during the cold war:

"My beliefs about marriage and sexual ethics reflect mainstream, biblical understanding, shared by millions around the world."

"The way that I have been treated raises very serious issues about the way students in English universities are being censored in their views and beliefs."

"If the personal statements of students on their own social media pages, and amongst their own ‘friends’ are now to be used to judge whether they are 'fit and proper people' to serve in professions such as law, medicine, teaching and social work, then very serious questions need to be asked about the freedoms in the UK."

"If universities are now to scrutinise their student's 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."

"If each university is making its own, arbitrary decisions, who is monitoring these decisions and how can students ensure that, across all universities, there is good, fair and equal assessment of such issues?"

"However, there is a far more serious issue at stake. Further education is a time when all students should be helped to explore their beliefs, through interaction and debate. If they are ‘censored’ from even sharing their ideas or beliefs as part of a discussion on Facebook then how can that happen? Even the Soviet Union did not restrict students like this!"

"If these sort of judgemental procedures were in place when David Cameron and other Cabinet ministers were in Oxford, and some were members of the Bullingdon Club, one wonders whether they would have been prevented from continuing their courses as well!"

He then went on to claim that Muslim students would have been treated differently if they had made a similar comment, and said that he was the one being discriminated against, not gay people who he'd called an "abomination":

"The university claims my views are discriminatory but I am the one being discriminated against because of my expression of Christian beliefs. I wonder whether the university would have taken any action if a Muslim student who believes in Shari’a law, with its teaching about women and homosexuality, had made moderate comments on his Facebook page. I don’t think so."

Leviticus quotes:

The part of Leviticus that Felix allegedly quoted related to homosexuality, and is often used by the Westboro Baptist Church (and other similarly homophobic groups) to support their beliefs. The quote reads:

"You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination,"

Other quote from Leviticus

Leviticus quotes Felix didn't choose to air included passages that condemn Harry Potter, eating bacon rinds at home and one that says you shouldn't wear cotton-polyester blends:

“A man or woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned with stones, their blood shall be upon them.”

“It shall be a perpetual statute throughout Your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”

"Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." Leviticus 19:19

It's unclear whether these quotes could get anyone expelled from anywhere other than Hogwarts, for the one about wizards.

A violation of the Human Rights Act - Christians being "punished in the public arena"

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) are supporting Felix Ngole. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the CLC, said the University may have breached the human rights legislation:

"The university's treatment of Felix fundamentally violates its responsibilities under the human rights legislation. The university has failed to protect his freedom of speech under Article 10 and his freedom of religion under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Students are entitled to discuss and debate their own personal views on their own Facebook page."

"Felix has worked with people who identify as homosexual, treating them with respect and kindness. What he shared on his Facebook page simply reflects biblical teaching on sexual behaviour."

"He is not yet a social worker, and unless we win this case he will be barred from social work. Felix is a student, who is entitled to express his views, especially ones shared by millions of people around the world."

"There is no evidence that Felix's views adversely impacted his work. quite the contrary he was a hard-working student who should qualify in due course and be an asset to the profession."

"Sadly, this is yet another case of Christians being punished in the public arena, and of censorship of views. We will help Felix fight this through the University's appeals process, and to Judicial Review if necessary."

Sheffield response

A Sheffield spokesperson said they couldn't comment on the case at this time as it was subject to appeal, but said that the decision was taken by the Fitness to Practice Committee, rather than Sheffield itself:

"The individual concerned is currently appealing the decision of a Fitness to Practise Committee, relating to professional registration and the standards of the relevant professional body. These standards are nationally determined by the Health and Care Professions Council. As the case is subject to appeal, the University of Sheffield will not comment on this case at this time."