Kristie Higgs: Employment tribunal to hear appeal of Christian teaching assistant sacked for sharing petition against compulsory sex education14 March 2023 Issued by: Christian Concern
This week, an Employment Tribunal will hear the appeal of a Christian teaching assistant who was sacked for sharing two Facebook posts that raised concerns about how transgenderism and compulsory sex education was to be taught at her son’s Church of England (CofE) primary school.
In 2019, during a six-hour interrogation by her bosses at Fairford school, Gloucestershire, Kristie Higgs, 46, was told that her Christian beliefs, expressed in the posts, were akin to that of a ‘pro-Nazi right-wing extremist.’
Mrs Higgs had made the posts after discovering that the CofE school attended by her child planned to introduce ‘No Outsiders’ books on confusing and harmful gender identity under the radar.
Subsequently sacked for gross misconduct, despite the posts being made under her maiden name on a profile which had no links to her employer, Mrs Higgs launched legal action.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, this week she will now challenge a previous judgment which controversially rejected her claims for discrimination and harassment on the grounds of her Christian beliefs.
In October 2020, a judge had ruled that, despite Mrs Higgs’ posts not being ‘homophobic’ or ‘transphobic’, the school was justified in sacking her because others could perceive them to be so.
Mrs Higgs’s lawyers are appealing on the grounds that in affirming the school’s position, the Employment Tribunal erred in law and demonstrated a manifestly incorrect understanding of freedom of speech.
Lawyers will argue at the appeal that no reasonable and informed person, having read Mrs Higgs’s posts, could conclude anything other than that the posts were a critique of a certain approach to education, whether held by members of the LGBT community or non-LGBT secular liberals.
The hearing, taking place at the Employment Appeal Tribunal on 16 and 17 March, comes following news that the government will undertake an urgent review into ‘inappropriate’ sex education in UK schools.
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is said to be personally alarmed about Government guidance produced in 2019, the year of Mrs Higgs’ sacking, that was endorsed by LGBT charity Stonewall.
Ofsted has said last week that it is ‘powerless’ to sanction schools teaching schools as young as 12 about ‘gender unicorns’ and anal sex.
Mrs Higgs’ appeal had been due to be heard in July 2022. However, ahead of the hearing it was exposed that a trans activist, Edward Lord, was to sit on the panel presiding over the case.
It transpired Lord had made a series of public statements relating to key issues in Mrs Higgs’ case, including the extent to which individuals should be restricted from making comments or statements regarding LGBT ideology, especially transgenderism.
Associated with Mermaids and Stonewall, Lord had described Professor Kathleen Stock, who was hounded out of her job at the University of Sussex by trans activists for her gender critical views, as “a notorious trans hater.”
Lord was subsequently forced to recuse himself for perception of bias by the President of the Employment Tribunal, Mrs Justice Eady. This, however, added further delay to Mrs Higgs’ appeal being heard.
My Christian beliefs
Commenting ahead of the hearing, Mrs Higgs said: “I am relieved that the opportunity to appeal is here. Over four years on I am continuing to fight for justice. In that time there has been so many disturbing revelations about transgender ideology in schools and children being taught inappropriate sex education.
“Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe that I lost the job I loved because of my Christian beliefs.
“I shared these posts as a mother who was deeply concerned about the compulsory sex education being forced on my 9-year-old son at a Church of England primary school. These views were compared to that of a ‘pro-Nazi right wing extremist’, which is highly offensive to me and millions of Christians across the world.
“I have to continue to fight for justice so that no one else has to go through what I have. I want parents to have the freedom to bring their children up in line with their Christian beliefs, I want young children to be protected from this harmful ideology. Christians must also to be able to share their opinions and beliefs without fear of losing their jobs.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Kristie was punished in 2019 as a result of the climate of fear and intolerance created in our education system by Stonewall. Only now is the government beginning to wake up and be ‘alarmed’ by the extreme teaching young children have been exposed to on their watch.
“Kristie Higgs was alarmed by the teaching content she found in her son’s Church of England primary school in 2019. She was deeply concerned that confusing and harmful LGBT teaching and books were being introduced without parents being properly informed and consulted.
“The previous judgment in this case should concern all of us who care about the freedom to be a Christian believer in the UK.
“Kristie was dismissed, not for the posts she made, but for a deliberately distorted and unkind interpretation of the content that she linked to.
“Even though her post was private to her family and friends she is being held responsible for what others might do with it.
“It is clear no actual harm has come to the school’s reputation as a result of her posts, but that she has been sacked as if it had. The posts were not even in relation to the secondary school but about the books being read in her son’s primary school.
“We stand with Kristie as she continues to seek justice this week.”
Mrs Higgs’s ordeal began in October 2018 when the Church of England primary school attended by her youngest son adopted ‘No Outsiders’ teaching about gender identity.
In late October 2018, mother of two, Mrs Higgs, shared two posts under her maiden name on her private Facebook page, that made no mention of her employer.
The first post encouraged friends and family to sign a petition challenging the government’s plans to introduce Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) to children in primary schools.
The post flagged that a government consultation on plans to make RSE mandatory for children as young as four was coming to a close. It asked its readers to sign a nationwide petition calling on the government to uphold the rights of parents to have children educated in line with their religious beliefs.
A similar petition was subsequently signed by over 115,000 people and was debated in parliament.
In the second post, Mrs Higgs shared an article from Judybeth.com on the rise of transgender ideology in children’s books in American schools and added her own comment: “This is happening in our primary schools now.”
The article critiqued the same LGBT ‘No Outsiders’ books promoting transgenderism to children that Mrs Higgs had discovered were being introduced in her son’s Church of England primary school.
The following weekend, Matthew Evans, the headteacher of Farmor’s School, received an anonymous complaint which described the posts as ‘homophobic and prejudiced to the LGBT community’.
In response, Mr Evans asked the complainant to find more “offensive posts” on Mrs Higgs’s Facebook page, and promised to take immediate action.
The following week, despite the posts being only visible to her friends, Mrs Higgs was pulled into a meeting by Mr Evans.
Mr Evans read a letter out telling her that she would be suspended and that an investigation would follow for gross misconduct. Told she had to leave the premises, Mrs Higgs, shaking and tearful, collected her things and left the school grounds.
An investigation into her conduct was launched, which involved Mrs Higgs being questioned on why she had used her school email to receive ‘inspirational’ quotations from the Bible.
The investigation culminated just days before Christmas when Mrs Higgs was asked to attend a disciplinary hearing at a hotel.
‘Pro-Nazi right-wing extremist’
For six hours until 8pm, Mrs Higgs was subjected to intimidating questioning by the panel of three governors, supported by three other members of staff. Her posts were compared to ‘pro-Nazi’ views, and she was accused of intolerance.
When she tried to explain the context of her Christian beliefs she was told: “keep your religion out of it.” Mrs Higgs argued that her aim had been merely to raise awareness among parents of the Government’s education plans and the transgender books being taught in primary schools.
The academy concluded, however, that Mrs Higgs would be dismissed for: ‘illegal discrimination’, ‘serious inappropriate use of social media’, and ‘online comments that could bring the school into disrepute and damage the reputation of the school.’
In October 2020, Bristol Employment Tribunal ruled against Higgs’s claims for discrimination and harassment on the grounds of her Christian beliefs in connection with her 2018 sacking from Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire.
Having worked for 7 years as a pastoral assistant at the school, Mrs Higgs was summarily dismissed in early 2019 after sharing a petition against the extension of relationship and sex education on her private Facebook page.
Mrs Higgs’s had shared two posts in response to the Church of England primary school attended by her youngest son adopting the controversial ‘No Outsiders’ teaching about sexual minorities.
After an anonymous complaint attacked Mrs Higgs’s views as “homophobic and prejudiced”, the School dismissed her for allegedly bringing the school into disrepute.
During a six-hour disciplinary hearing, a school governor likened her posts to those of a pro-Nazi, far-Right extremist.
Another governor told her she had no ‘absolute right’ to freedom of speech.
Launching legal action, the Tribunal hearing that followed concluded that her dismissal was not related to the Christian beliefs she expressed on social media, such as her opposition to sex education in primary schools or to the idea of gender fluidity.
The ruling said that her beliefs are protected by the Equality Act, however, it claimed that Mrs Higgs was dismissed because some of the content in the articles she linked to could lead someone to think that Kristie “was hostile towards the LBGT community, and trans people in particular”, despite there being no evidence of this.
Ironically, the ruling was made in October 2020, shortly after new Government guidelines restricted the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum to prevent the LGBT indoctrination of children – vindicating the protests of parents such as Mrs Higgs.