A Manchester Christian who was demoted and had his salary cut by his employer because he expressed an opinion on homosexual marriage on his Facebook page yesterday won his case against his employer at the High Court.
Adrian Smith, a housing manager with Trafford Housing Trust, concerned at news that homosexual marriages might be permitted in church, wrote on his personal Facebook page "An equality too far." The page could be seen only by a few dozen friends and work colleagues, and the entry was made in his own time.
A colleague at work reported the matter to the management, who said Mr Smith was guilty of gross misconduct, demoted him and cut his salary by £14,000 a year. They claimed he had broken the trust's code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers.
It emerged at the High Court that the trust was worried it could lose a homosexual rights charter award unless it took action against Mr Smith.
The judge, Mr Justice Briggs, said Mr Smith had been taken to task for doing nothing wrong. Mr Smith's postings in his view were not, "viewed objectively, judgmental, disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence. As to their content, they are widely held views frequently to be heard on radio or television, or read in the newspapers."
He rejected the suggestion that Mr Smith's comments could be viewed as homophobic. The breach of contract the trust has committed, he said, was "serious and repudiatory."
Because of rules covering contract law, the judge was able to award Mr Smith only £98 in damages, leaving "the uncomfortable feeling that justice has not been done to him. I must admit to real disquiet about the financial outcome of this case."
I understand that despite the court's judgment, the trust is refusing to reinstate Mr Smith to his former managerial post or restore the £14,000 pay cut.
Mr Smith said after the case he was delighted to have won the judgment. "I have won today. But what will tomorrow bring? I am fearful that, if marriage is redefined, there will be more cases like mine - and if the law of marriage changes people like me may not win in court.
"Does the Prime Minister want to create a society where people like me, people who believe in traditional marriage, are treated like outcasts? That may not be the intention, but that's what will happen.
"The Prime Minister should think very carefully about the impact of redefining marriage on ordinary people."