By Douglas LeBlanc
The Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall has lost his case against Trent College Limited after he was reported to Prevent, a UK anti-terrorist police unit, and dismissed from his role as school chaplain. In his case, Randall made claims of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, victimization, and unfair dismissal.
Employment Judge Victoria Butler rejected all of Randall’s claims in a 78-page ruling.
At the center of the case are three sermons — two preached in 2016, and another in 2019 — that Randall preached at the secondary private school.
Butler described one of two sermons Randall delivered on these topics in 2016: “His first sermon strongly implied that it is sinful to alter the body given by God, implied that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and that family works best when a woman, with her tone of voice, looks after the children. The school received complaints from pupils and staff who were upset by the underlying message that it is a sin to be LGBT+.”
In his second sermon in 2016, Randall said that same-sex marriage “is a legal reality now in this country. But it’s worth putting that into some kind of perspective, I think. Because if you think that same-sex marriage is obviously right, you’d be in a minority — at least if you consider everyone in the world, and all the people throughout history. Same-sex marriage is new, and that’s worth bearing in mind.”
The ruling quoted a religious studies teacher as writing to Randall after the second sermon in 2016: “I was personally offended, and hurt by what I heard in Chapel today, and moreover extremely concerned that you felt it was appropriate to use your position to take on such challenging views with students who already have numerous other pressures in their life. Although each biblical point you referenced is accurate, to see a priest, standing in church, airing a negative view of my personal life commenting on my marriage, and my identity, was surprisingly difficult for me. It felt a betrayal of everything that I have done during my teaching career to represent the Christian faith as a tolerant, forgiving, and loving faith.”
Other complaints came from 90 students and various parents.
Randall describes himself as a liberal Catholic or Tractarian High Church Christian. He sought and received guidance from the Rev. Dr. Ian Paul, an evangelical theologian and member of General Synod, as he sought to defend historic Christian teaching about sexuality.
In the 2019 sermon, Randall sought to assure students that they were free to land on either side of contemporary debates about sexuality and gender identity, and that they owed people on the other side of the debate courtesy and respect.
Randall’s feistiest language in 2019 was in two sentences: “And you might reasonably notice that some LGBT activists will happily lie about gender identity being a legally protected characteristic (which it isn’t), and from that observation wonder whether there are other areas where their relationship to truth is looser than might be ideal. But by way of contrast, no one has the right to tell you that you must lie about these matters, to say things you sincerely believe to be false — that is the tactic of totalitarianism and dictatorship.”
Randall has promised an appeal of Judge Butler’s ruling. The school has said that Randall was dismissed for reasons of redundancy, and it has not replaced him since his dismissal.