Social work student expelled over anti-gay marriage Facebook posts launches appeal bid

Felix Ngole is taking his case to the High Court to argue his views were shared in a personal capacity and would not affect him as a social worker

Photo: projectio/fotolia

A student expelled from his social work course after he expressed anti-gay marriage views on social media has launched a legal challenge against the decision.

At a hearing today, Felix Ngole will ask the High Court to allow a judicial review of Sheffield University’s decision to remove him from his social work masters course in February 2016.

The university excluded Ngole after he made Facebook posts supporting Kim Davis, a US county clerk who was jailed after refusing to give marriage licenses to same sex-couples. He also published quotes from Leviticus on his private Facebook account, which described homosexuality as an “abomination”.

Ngole argued the views were part of his Christian faith and his comments were made in a personal capacity.

But a university conduct committee found his actions would fall short of the professional standards for social workers set by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and he was expelled from his course. He later lost an internal appeal against the decision.

‘Bar to office’

The High Court refused Ngole’s initial application for a judicial review but it has granted him a hearing so he can put his case in person.

Ngole said the university’s move had created a “bar to office for Christians”.

He said: “My beliefs about marriage and sexual ethics reflect mainstream, biblical understanding, shared by millions around the world. Simply expressing that understanding, in a personal capacity, on my Facebook page, cannot be allowed to become a bar to serving and helping others in a professional capacity as a social worker.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supportin Ngole’s legal fight, said: “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.

“Unless he wins this case he will be forever barred from social work. Felix 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 would be an asset to the profession.”

More from Community Care

19 Responses to Social work student expelled over anti-gay marriage Facebook posts launches appeal bid

  1. Mikey April 25, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    Problem is, Felix, inasmuch as you may not agree with homosexualism, your views are in contrast to espoused social work values. How can it be known that you won’t act in a way which discriminates, against that people of homosexual persuasion? Once one signs up to social work, one must adhere to its tenets, even if one’s value system is at odds with certain of its aspects. You chose the profession: not it you. All the best!


    The world is changing, deal with it.

    • HAD ENUFF April 25, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

      Why can’t a person express their personal views and beliefs in their own private domain, without it having an impact on their profession? Tell me why? This man has quoted a biblical scripture from the bible, which is the foundation and cornerstone of his faith and belief. Well let me just say, I personally have worked with social workers over the years whose language and derogatory views, comments, opinions caused me great upset, confusion and made me question if I wanted to remain within this profession. These so called ‘social workers’ who have all signed up to HCPC standards, would fall at the first hurdle if there was a fly on the wall, (such as management) watching their disgusting practice. They talked about service users in a derogatory way, also management and even their own colleagues. The had negative discussions about black people, spoke about people’s religion etc. In addition their whole demeanor put me off the profession and, these same people are trusted with making professional life changing decisions in relation to people’s lives. It is hard enough working within this field but when the people you work with are not fit to be in such a role it is even harder. I wonder what would happen to them if they were found out or if management overheard them? Possibly nothing. Let’s just be honest not everyone in this profession or other professions or in the community / society are going to agree or even accept homosexuality. The reality is, it is just not going to be accepted by all. That said, it is important that gay / LGBT individuals are not treated any differently because of their sexuality. What is important to me as a social worker, is that we recognize that we all deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and humanity, not forgetting that we all have something in common and that is we are all human and therefore belong to just 1 race the HUMAN RACE. Based on that I believe that this gentleman should be allowed to finish his course. I am in no doubt that there are many social workers whose views and feelings about other groups of society and races, ethnic groups etc would have us falling of our chairs in disbelief, if we were to be privy to their conversations. The only difference between them and this gentleman is they haven’t shared their true and honest feelings or views on social media. If they did, I know they would be denied practicing and struck off the HCPC register.

      • Tya April 27, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

        I complete agree with you and I wish that everyone had that view of not just being a social worker but in every aspect of life.

  2. A Man Called Horse April 25, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    If I expressed Nazi sympathy or views that the Holocaust actually didn’t happen I would be booted out for sure. As a Social Worker you are always on duty/ 24/7 there is no distinction between professional conduct and private conduct.

    The root cause of his problem is his indoctrination by his parents into his Christian faith. I agree he should be out of the profession and that Social work should not pander to Christian or other religious nonsense. Clearly his private views conflict with the values of the Social work profession.

    Well done HCPS for once you have it right.

  3. Denice April 25, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    So much for freedom of speech!

    • Ben Glass April 25, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

      How is freedom of speech being inhibited in this case?

  4. Natalie April 25, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    The bible says you are allowed to threaten people that are different?! You are using the bible as an aid to share your abusive remarks. I hope I never meet you in the street. You have no human right to say what you said.

    • Christina April 25, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

      Natalie, you say that Felix has no “human right” to say what he said. He has in fact a much HIGHER right than a human right – he has a God-given right to quote the Bible.

      It is extremely worrying that Felix is being discriminated against in this way because as a Christian he quoted the Christian Bible in a personal capacity in a Christian country!

      I wish Felix well. He already has God’s blessing.

      • a social worker April 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

        This is not ‘a Christian country’. This is a secular nation with a Christian tradition. Please consider the crucial distinction there.

        • Christina April 27, 2017 at 12:27 am #

          Just to clarify – In a SECULAR country there is complete separation between church and state. In the UK there are legally established links. The church of England is the legally established church by Acts of Law going back centuries. In Scotland its the Church of Scotland. There are 26 bishops appointed to the House of Lords.

          The Monarch (currently the queen) is legally the “Governor of the church” with the legal title “Defender of the Faith”. There is a “Coronation Oath” (as explained on the interesting Parliament website) in which the British monarchs promise to: “Maintain the laws of God…and the Protestant reformed religion established by law….”. There are official Christian prayers each day in Parliament. A country that has all these links with Christianity is not secular – just ask the National Secular Society!

          The UK rightly also has freedom of religion – and until recently freedom of speech.

  5. Steve April 25, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    First, the “So much for freedom of speech” comment. He’s allowed to say it. He’s not being punished for saying it. He’s being punished for what he said. Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship.

    The guy in this article has the surname Ngole. An African surname, predominantly Ghanaian and the surrounding countries. If, as a white male, I’d written and article saying that black people shouldn’t be social workers because they’re black I would rightly NOT be protected by freedom of speech laws or any other laws that bestow rights. However, by the same token, I would also get in to trouble if I was overtly homophobic and used religion as my excuse to be homophobic especially when the law of country says different. When you then factor in that the purpose of a social worker is to work with people regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or any other concept that makes them “different” to you, this guys opinions are not what I would expect to find in social worker as they would cloud his judgement and lead to poor decisions for his service users. The people he’s there to protect, not to judge.

    I honestly hope the judge throws out his case. I can’t believe he has the audacity to say he’s speaking for “millions round the world”. I know these people exist and, in modern society, we dismiss their opinions as the medieval lunatic rantings that they are. There is no place for a 3,000 year old story book usurping modern science unless Felix Ngole is also doing all the other bits like stoning people to death if they’re working on Sundays. You can’t pick and chose your confirmation biases from the bible when you’re working with people from all walks of life.

  6. Matt April 25, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

    Natalie: This gentleman is free to say what he will, that is his human right; but words have consequences as do actions. If his values and beliefs clash with people he may be working with, especially if they are not in accordance with anti-discriminatory/oppressive principles, it places others at risk and may affect the quality of his practice.

  7. Chris April 25, 2017 at 9:10 pm #

    Him posting these views on public posts totally undermines the non judgemental and anti oppressive position social workers should take. The university was absolutely right and I would be appalled if he were able to practice as a social worker.

  8. Jon April 25, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    As a gay man, I believe l Felix has the right to express his opinion about homosexuality. I also believe he is mistaken and takes a few lines from one book to justify his opinion, there are other references which can be interpreted differently.
    However the bible was written, and I do not believe either testament to be the word of God , rather a set of values for the time, it is one book by one person. As an example I assume Felix flogs his slaves!
    As a social worker he should be held as an example and what he was condoning was a person not doing their job or following the law where they lived.
    I would worry about his impartiality although as a Christian I would expect him to follow the route of loving everyone.
    He has the right to say what he wants but needs to be prepared to stand by those words

  9. Anonymous April 26, 2017 at 12:39 am #

    Ban him

  10. Solomon April 26, 2017 at 7:02 am #

    I do fear for our profession at times. I wonder how he got on the course at all. I was under the impression that social work students immediately turn into perfectly orientated creatures that instinctively develop the necessary, liberal double speak required for practice. Perhaps he needed a little longer in the cacoon? It’s unthinkable that a would be social worker in his training would have offensive, beliefs – social workers are perfectly adjusted to the HCPC creed! but our issue really is that he publicly opined, free from the careful language we must use to avoid exactly such a situation. He should have known better not to risk the consequences of the liberal gestapo. Clearly someone reported this to the appropriate authorities. Perhaps with screen shots as evidence and a little testimony how reading such views had offended their sensibilities – as if anyone’s had so much as a nosebleed from being offended. It should have opened up an interesting discussion within their studies about the distinction between public and private presentation and how social media can hold you to account. Social work student. Not social work professional. Perhaps a tad heavy handed of the university? Perhaps they were also wary of HCPC?
    I guess my reservation is that despite felix being a plonker with a daft and offensive theology, knowing he ascribes to such beliefs doesn’t necessarily mean he is an offensive or ineffective practitioner. If it’s merely that he shared his personal beliefs then it seems logical to me that we should also discourage wearing crucifixes. Let us not even suggest that a niqab should be discouraged, because wearing such indicates that one is likely a Muslim, and that good ol’ book has plenty of delightful assertions.
    We tiptoe around the personal / professional belief systems daily in our practice and in some more sensitive teams. It becomes common sense and expedient to join the drones and toe the liberal values line. But perhaps the university could have given a softer hand. Not ruined a budding career

  11. Charlie April 26, 2017 at 9:24 am #

    Personally very upset to hear of anyone expressing the views and would be concerned for anyone in the profession expressing these outdated views on lgbt people. But the fact that it’s a social work student is particularly worrying.

    Furthermore the thing i find most concerning is that he chooses a public forum to openly admit these views. Facebook is not the private forum people believe it to be and it shows poor judgement, oppressive values and an utter lack of reflection and for the fact he still refuses to acknowledge he acted in error anyway. His party is choosing to make this entirely about religion and it’s decisive but there is no acknowledgement that i can see that they acknowledge as a student he should monitor and reflect on his use of social media.
    In fact community care magazine may also remember when they initially covered the story that the gentleman in question individually targeted those who commented on the story and said it was inaccurate and he was being judged (which is somewhat ironic). This indicated to me that he had not learned his mistakes from his first incident on social media that lead him to this in the first place.

  12. Lynne Brosnan April 26, 2017 at 11:10 am #

    Someone who shares the view that homosexuality is an abomination should not hold office as a social worker. Saying that his barring from becoming a social worker is barring to office all Christians is ridiculous as many thousands of Christians, of which I am one, just do not share the view that homosexuality is an abomination. These type of comments on social media from someone that wants to become a social worker are just not acceptable in my view. Mr Ngole has the right to freedom of speech but with that comes responsibility and consequences.
    This has the potential of putting very vulnerable people at risk.
    Mr Ngole has already shown his bias.

  13. Peter Kent April 28, 2017 at 12:33 am #

    What on earth makes people think they can spout such mediaeval drivel on a public forum without it potentially affecting their professional prospects?? I’m 100% certain that social workers aren’t some sort of homogenous mass of people who have exactly the same viewpoint on issues to do with race, religion, gender, class, politics etc. Some might have very strong views which I might find uncomfortable, indefensible or simply ludicrous and I daresay some of my views may have a similar effect on others. The trick is not to go plastering those views on the internet in the full knowledge that you could jeopardise your career. I’d imagine psychologists, counsellors, doctors and lawyers must observe similar levels of caution. I think Mr Ngole failed to obey the most simple maxim: use your common sense!