Kristie Higgs: Employment Tribunal to scrutinise role of anti-free speech LGBT activist in appeal case19 June 2022 Issued by: Christian Concern
In a high-profile case, Kristie Higgs, 45, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, was sacked for sharing two Facebook posts that raised concerns about how transgenderism and sex education was to be taught at her son’s Church of England primary school.
Mrs Higgs’ appeal is due to be heard by a three-member Employment Appeal Tribunal.
At a hearing this week, however, Mrs Higgs’ lawyers will challenge the impartiality of a Tribunal member, Edward Lord OBE, and his suitability to hear the appeal.
It has transpired that Lord has 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.
Edward Lord’s pinned tweet publicly announces that he blocks people on Twitter for expressing views that challenge trans ideology, the very the views Mrs Higgs was dismissed for: “My Twitter blocking policy: I will block anyone who tweets (or likes/retweets) abuse to or about me, my friends, my colleagues, or marginalised communities. This includes those who claim to be feminists but exclude or deny trans people or are otherwise not intersectional.”
Further tweets, now submitted as evidence to the court, uncover comments on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), a crucial issue in Mrs Higgs’ case, where he wrote:
‘So, here comes Section 28 again in a different guise. I just despair. It makes me cry. Of course teachers should accurately reflect that some children might be trans. I wish mine had.”’
He has also supported the exclusion from a debate in the Middle Temple of a Barrister, Naomi Cunningham, who he regards as unacceptably critical of the transgender agenda.
Edward Lord tweeted: “As a member of @middletemple’s @lgbtqforum and as one of the Inn’s @cityoflondon local councillors, I am sad to see the Inn offer a platform to a well known ‘gender critical’ barrister who champions transphobic causes at what should have been a celebration of #LGBTQ solidarity.”
Furthermore, Lord has 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.”
In the case of R.(Miller) v College of Policing, however, Professor Stock was described by Mr Justice Knowles as a “serious academic.”
Associated with Mermaids, which promotes radical transgender education in schools, in 2012 Edward Lord was also appointed as one of Stonewall’s first seventeen LGBT role models.
Edward Lord has also served as a trustee and advisory board member of LGBT Youth charity, Albert Kennedy Trust, the LGBT Foundation, and Pride in London.
In a YouTube video , 5 minutes and 10 seconds in, Edward Lord has described how he refused to go to a function where Liz Truss and Mike Pence were in attendance because their ‘views simply do not accord with my values.’
Mrs Higgs’ lawyers will submit to the court that Lord’s public statements could give rise to a perception of bias and have politely invited Lord to recuse himself from hearing the appeal as a lay member.
Barrister, Richard O’Dair, who will represent Mrs Higgs, will say that Edward Lord is not simply a person with views, but is a highly committed transgender activist, who, in very public forums, from a position of considerable influence and power, has taken sides on one of the most aggressively contested issues of our day, opposing everything Mrs Higgs stands for.
Commenting ahead of the hearing, Mrs Higgs said: “I am concerned that I will not get a fair hearing. Edward Lord has made many public statements that strongly oppose the Christian beliefs at the heart of my case.
“I am disappointed that because of raising this issue, the full appeal hearing could be delayed again for a long time. This is another challenge, however, that I am determined to overcome as I continue to seek justice.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. We have faced no alternative but to challenge Edward Lord’s involvement.
“It’s not hard to see the conflict of interest in this case – a member of the tribunal going out of their way to publicly announce they block people on Twitter for expressing concerns on trans issues; the views Kristie was dismissed for.
“Edward Lord may say he wants to apply the law impartially, but his campaigning twitter account demonstrates the opposite. It is not kind; it is not tolerant. Asking Edward Lord to recuse himself in this case is a simple and reasonable request that helps avoid any suggestion of bias.
“Justice must be done and must be seen to be done.
“We will continue to stand with Kristie as she faces this latest hurdle in pursuit of justice.”
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 sexual minorities.
In late October 2018, mother of two, Mrs Higgs, shared two posts on her private Facebook page, that made no mention of her employer, under her maiden name.
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, and 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 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.
Barrister Richard O’Dair, representing Mrs Higgs, argued before leave to appeal was granted that: “It is not transphobic to have doubts about gender reassignment for children” and described the tribunal’s conclusions as “perverse” and “not a view to which one can come if one has a proper understanding of free speech”.
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.