A Christian social work student is appealing against a decision to remove him from his course for voicing opposition to gay marriage on Facebook.
Felix Ngole, 38, was in his second year of an MA in social work course at Sheffield University when a committee found his Facebook posts had “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social work profession”.
He was reportedly removed from his course and told to hand in his student card, a move his supporters said had “effectively barred” him from training as a social worker.
Ngole shared posts showing support for Kim Davis, the American county clerk jailed after she refused marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On his private Facebook account, he also argued that homosexual activity was against the teaching of the Bible and quoted a verse from Leviticus that described it as an “abomination” in September 2015.
The posts reportedly triggered a complaint from a fellow student. This led to a meeting at the university and later the fitness to practise panel hearing.
The panel was run by the university but considered conduct in relation to the Health and Care Professions Council standards for social workers. It concluded Ngole was entitled to his opinions but there was a danger that “publicly posting those views” would have an effect on his ability to practice as a social worker.
1.5 You must not discriminate against service users, carers or colleagues by allowing your personal views to affect your professional relationships or the care, treatment or other services that you provide.
1.6 You must challenge colleagues if you think that they have discriminated against, or are discriminating against, service users, carers and colleagues.
2.7 You must use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites.
9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.
9.4 You must declare issues that might create conflicts of interest and make sure that they do not influence your judgement.
Ngole told The Telegraph: “I am not against people who are in same-sex relationships, that is their choice, but I am a Christian and if asked for my views I should be free to express that.
“I didn’t intimidate anyone and I didn’t treat them in a discriminatory manner.
“I have worked with people in same-sex relationships in the past and there has been no issue whatsoever but the university said that if someone Googled me and found that (comment) they would not be confident to come to me for support.”
Untested and unproven
Ngole is reportedly contesting the university’s decision on the grounds he was found unfit to practice because he might offend someone, rather than evidence of actual offence.
He added: “I don’t see how you can end somebody’s professional career based on something that is untested and unproven.”
Ngole’s is being supported in his appeal by the Christian Legal Centre.
Andrea Williams, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “What is absolutely shocking is that we have got a student who expresses a view on his own private Facebook page and is removed from a university course and effectively barred from professional vocational training for voicing opinions which are held by millions of people around the world.”
A Sheffield University spokesman said: “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.”