Trent College is a co-educational, independent day and boarding school. It is an Anglican foundation and a registered charity . Its articles of association provide that the “Objects for which the company is established are: The advancement of education of boys and girls in England, Wales or elsewhere in accordance with the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England” . The Revd Dr Bernard Randall, an Anglican priest, was employed as the College’s Chaplain. In May 2019, he delivered two sermons to the pupils about “competing ideologies” which led to his summary dismissal on 30 August 2019. On appeal, he was reinstated, subject to compliance with various management instructions. He was subsequently dismissed by reason of redundancy on 10 November 2020 .
In Mr B Randall v Trent College Ltd & Ors  UKET 2600288/2020, before the Employment Tribunal he claimed:
- harassment contrary to s.26 Equality Act 2010;
- direct discrimination on grounds of religion or religious or other philosophical belief contrary to s.13;
- victimisation contrary to s.27; and
- unfair dismissal contrary to s.98 Employment Rights Act 1996.
It was not at issue between the parties that he was at all material times a Christian who had the protected characteristic of “religion or religious or philosophical belief”, whether perceived or actual, under s.10(1) Equality Act 2010, or that he held the religious or philosophical beliefs set out in paragraph 118 of his particulars of claim and, as a consequence, had the protected characteristic of religious belief within the terms of s.10(2) of the Act .
Dr Randall holds the following views:
“i. That marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity (C of E Canon B30).
ii. That sexual activity properly belongs only within such marriage and therefore any other kind of sexual activity is morally problematic.
iii. That all humankind is created “male and female”, and accordingly, one cannot change their gender or sex.
iii. Lack of belief that (i) gender is independent of any biological factor, (ii) that a person’s physiology may need to be changed to match his or her claimed gender, (iii) that gender identity is a matter of individual determination and/ or social conditioning, and (iv) that it is possible to be ‘gender fluid’ or ‘non-binary’.
iv. That truth is important for assessing ideas and their consequences” .
In the first 2015/16 term, Dr Randall was aware that “the School was looking for ways to ensure that LGBT+ members of its community felt safe, supported, included and valued just as much as any other member of its community” . However, he
“embarked on a series of sermons delivered to pupils aged 11 to 18 years old focusing on gender equality, gay marriage and LGBT+ rights. 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” .
Following his sermon, the College received complaints from pupils and staff who were upset by the underlying message that it was a sin to be LGBT+ .
His second sermon included the underlying message “that the majority of Christians believe that homosexuality is sinful unless homosexuals remain celibate”. He quoted Leviticus 20:13: “if a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them” . He went on to say:
“so the key question for Christians is whether same-sex marriage is possible within a Christian worldview. Clearly, it 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 … So that’s the majority Christian view, as it is around the world at the moment…” .
Towards the end of the 2017/2018 academic year, the College decided to use Educate and Celebrate (“E&C”): a best practice programme recognised by Ofsted and DfE and approved by the Boarding Schools’ Association, with the aim of “taking a whole-school approach to tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and ingrained attitudes in schools” [75 & 76].
By 2020, as a result of the COVID lockdown the College’s Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) had decreased by £0.6m and its free cash by £0.2m . The respondents therefore decided that they had to make cost savings  and told Dr Randall that his post was to be downgraded to part-time . In the end, he was made redundant – and the College has not employed a Chaplain since .
Dr Randall asked the Tribunal to find that Educate & Celebrate:
“Included an uncritically LGBT+ affirming curriculum designed to change the way children thought so radically that it would not occur to them henceforth to be anything other than affirming in ethical terms of same-sex marriage. The idea that same-sex marriage was equivalent in ethical terms to heterosexual marriage would become part of the air that the children breathed. So too would the idea that everyone had the right to choose a gender identity contrary to their sex. Alternative views would be rendered unthinkable” .
The Tribunal disagreed, concluding, “We saw and heard no evidence that came anywhere close to supporting the Claimant’s view that E&C would indoctrinate pupils in such a way” . Further, Dr Randall had
“had no regard for the setting and his audience in delivering the sermons. He held a position of authority and trust and delivered his sermons from a script in Chapel to a ‘captive audience bound by silence’ … This is contrary to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 guidance which obliges the School to ensure that, if there is some occurrence involving one or more of the protected characteristics, pupils understand the issues and respect all those characteristics. This could not be achieved in a ten-minute chapel service at the start of the school day with no facility to question or debate” .
Dr Randall had alleged that his redundancy had been “artificially orchestrated” ; the respondents had countered that he had been dismissed because of redundancy, pure and simple . The Tribunal concluded that his dismissal had been “by reason of genuine redundancy” and because “the requirement of the School for the Claimant to carry out Chaplaincy work had ceased or diminished” . The decision to dismiss him therefore “fell within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer in those circumstances”: claim dismissed .
According to media reports, Dr Randall is to appeal.
Comments are closed.
A preacher preached what was not accepted, or acceptable. So the solution is… no preaching, no pastoral care, no worship. And in an Anglican school.
That’s not what the ET concluded.
Do you think that the Tribunal gave proper weight to the religious context – sermon, in an act of CofE worship, by CofE minister? (What would “proper” mean to you?)
Do you think that safeguarding applies to the expression of ideas, rather than person-to-person interaction? That’s a key part of the ruling. Offence or distress cannot override Article 10 free speech rights. What would be different here?
Honest questions. Asking for a friend.
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