If only there were someone other than Izzy. Someone not like Izzy who was getting hounded out of his future employment for making a statement about his religious convictions.
If only there were some no-name who wasn’t followed in Instagram by thousands, and who wasn’t on social media all of the time, getting the squeeze for stating that he holds to the biblical understanding of marriage.
If only there were some non-sports person, some nondescript, non-mansion-living, non-sermon-preaching, non-multimillionaire Christian. And if only this nobody was merely living their nondescript, non-mansion-living, non-sermon-preaching, non-multimillionaire Christian life but was, nevertheless facing the wrath of the pious for his religious convictions.
And if only, instead of announcing his views to the watching world, a world that hangs on his every word, he politely announced his views on a social media page in which he was constantly harangued for his perspective. And if only, rather than going viral, that comment took a bit of effort by a particularly aggrieved person to locate, and then copy and then distribute to this poor unsuspecting person’s university superiors.
If only such a person existed. If only such a person was looking to enter the caring professions, adding to his qualifications (and his student debt) to do so, rather than hammering the snot out of someone on the football field. If only.
Then we could all – Christians of every stripe – get behind that person. We would, wouldn’t we? There’d be a clear, no-fudging, no-equivocating, no “squinting and measuring with thumb and forefinger”, no “He’d been warned before” to add into the mix.
If only there were an everyman who could be us in any other situation. Who might be us if we put a similar foot wrong. Who doesn’t have a seven million dollar property portfolio. We would look at his face in the paper, innocuous, neither handsome nor ugly, neither scowling or smiling, and we would think:
Hmm, I wonder if that could happen to me? I wonder if I could end up being hounded out of my profession just like he was. I wonder if what I stated gently on a Facebook pace about marriage could see me taken to the legal cleaners?
But let’s keep going. If only – should such a person exist – he were black. If only he were a make-ends-meet university student studying social work in the UK in order to go into the caring professions long term . And if only he were, I dunno, of Cameroon origin or some such, with a name that was decidedly not Smith or Jones.
And to add just another level of intersectionality to that, if only this bloke came from Barnsley! Barnsley of all places! Barnsley – surely one of the least salubrious mid-sized towns in the north of England! Barnsley – albeit a Barnsley with a newly promoted Championship football (a morsel of comfort thrown to the good folk of Barnsley to keep them less miserable through the coming winter).
Now if only this kinda bloke, all voiceless, juggling study and work, and with caring long term intentions for his community, were nonetheless proverbially run out of town for voicing his thoughts on a Facebook conversation about the public institution of marriage.
Well whaddya know! Taa-dah! Take a bow Felix Ngole:
Felix Ngole is that everyman. Felix has just been put through the wringer the last three years by Sheffield University, which has taken him all the way to the Court of Appeals in the UK for making a statement about marriage that the university declared rendered him unfit to practice in social work, before dumping him from the course after a witch hunt – er, inquest.
They were pious about it of course. Mighty pious in a way only the secular religious can be these days. Their concern was that he would be act prejudicially towards any clients he was caring for, either on the basis of their sexual beliefs or practices. Felix Ngole was therefore unfit to work in the social work sector.
The court took a dim view to all of that, ruling that:
The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that ‘homosexuality is a sin’) does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds.
In other words the court determined that our disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle is not directly correlated to how we treat that person in a caring environment. There are some interesting transcript exchanges which you can read here. And you can read the BBC report of the case here. There’s also a good Sydney Morning Herald op-ed piece by John Steenhof here.
And more than that, the court stated that siding with Sheffield University would potentially threaten the profession of any religious person who had their comments about marriage, public or otherwise, presented to their employer, given that any comment – even within the confines of a church setting – could be recorded and uploaded to social media without the speaker’s knowledge.
Of course the case isn’t over, as it’s now back to the drawing board, with the court saying it could not:
“finally determine whether the appellant would have resisted the possibility of tempering the expression of his views or would have refused to accept guidance which would resolve the problem. This requires new findings of fact. This case should, therefore, be remitted for a new hearing before a differently constituted FTP Panel.”
So it’s as you were for Felix Ngole, as he prepares for another round against the university. Felix himself said this outside the court:
“This is great news, not only for me and my family, but for everyone who cares about freedom of speech, especially for those working in or studying for caring professions. As Christians we are called to care for and serve others, and publicly and privately we must be free to express our beliefs, especially when asked, without fear of losing our livelihoods.
This is such a clear cut case of the opposite of Izzy, that I’m pretty sure everyone of faith will shout a loud “Hooray for Felix Ngole!” whatever their stance on sexuality and marriage.