Press Release

Role of Church of England bishop in blacklisting ‘terrorist’ chaplain to be scrutinised by tribunal

23 February 2023         Issued by: Christian Concern

Today, an employment tribunal will scrutinise the role of a bishop in blacklisting a chaplain from officiating in the Church of England (CofE) after he was wrongly reported as a potential ‘terrorist’ and hounded out of employment at a school for giving a sermon on identity politics.

East Midlands Employment tribunal will hear on February 23-24 how the Rev. Dr Bernard Randall, 50, has been unemployable as a CofE Priest ever since the Bishop of Derby, Rt. Rev. Libby Lane, refused to permit him to work as a minister following his dismissal by Trent College in Nottingham.

Instead, for giving a moderate sermon in a CofE chapel in a school with a ‘Protestant and Evangelical’ CofE ethos, he was blacklisted by the diocese as a ‘safeguarding risk’ to children and vulnerable adults.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has also refused to intervene in the case.

To this day, Dr Randall says that the diocese has not specified what the allegations against him are and no evidence has ever been disclosed showing that he has done anything wrong or behaved inappropriately towards anyone.

Disclosed documents have revealed, however, in the wake of the safeguarding investigation, that a senior member of the diocese stated in regard to his sermon:

“There are a disproportionate number of people who are drawn to schools via the Church who have ‘this way of thinking’.”

The safeguarding team were also concerned that Dr Randall represented a “reputational risk” to the CofE because of the CofE’s own teaching on marriage and human identity, which were expressed in Dr Randall’s sermon. They concluded in a risk assessment that because the Bible supports this position, the Church itself could even be “a risk factor to itself.”

Behind the scenes, efforts to resolve the situation have been stonewalled. So as well as a case against Trent College, Dr Randall has therefore faced no alternative but to bring a claim against the Bishop of Derby and the diocese’s safeguarding team on the grounds of religious discrimination, harassment and a breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Dr Randall is seeking damages for financial loss and a recommendation that the Bishop and the Diocesan Safeguarding Team undergo training on Discrimination Law, especially as it pertains to the Christian faith and freedom of speech.

The preliminary hearing in Nottingham this week will decide whether the actions of the Bishop of Derby fall within the remit of an employment tribunal.

The bishop’s lawyers argue that Dr Randall was never employed by the diocese and therefore this is not an employment matter.

Dr Randall’s lawyers, however, will say that the actions of the bishop have led directly to him being unemployable as a priest and therefore the full claim must be heard in this forum. An analogy would be the General Medical Council refusing to give accreditation to a qualified doctor.

Furthermore, Dr Randall’s lawyers will argue that he would not have been treated in this way by the bishop if he had been approving of same sex marriage and transgender beliefs.

Dr Randall, has been barred from giving a sermon for three years. This has caused him great anguish and personal pain.

‘Pursuing justice’

Ahead of the hearing, Dr Randall said: “I’m being charged with wrongthink. There is no allegation that my behaviour towards any person has ever fallen below proper standards. Only my thinking is being checked. Even the Spanish Inquisition told people what the charges were.

“People in the Church are accusing me of the crime of thinking what the Church thinks; because I preached what the Church teaches, they think I am too dangerous to be allowed to preach in any Church.

“The Bishop of Derby has shown moral cowardice in refusing to stand up for the goodness of the Church’s own teaching, and totally failed to support and vindicate me. Sadly, the CofE seems to care more about its reputation in the secular world than showing spiritual leadership.

“The human cost on me has been immense and I have no idea what the future holds.

“People ask me why I have not left the CofE, and I can only say because it is a deep part of who I am.  

“The behaviour of the school is wrong, but the Church should have known better and done better. How I have been treated by the CofE has hurt me more than anything.

“I have had no protection at all and have faced no choice but to pursue justice. The day comes when you have to stand up to bullies. I am appalled that it is the Church that has forced me to do so.

“The Church should be thinking about what is acceptable to God, rather than conforming to society. If we only say what people already think or believe, why should people listen to the Church? If we only say what is already acceptable, we don’t add anything to people’s lives.

“I have never had any wish to leave the CofE, I believe it has turned its back on me.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is backing Dr Randall’s case, said: “Bernard is one of many faithful Church of England ministers who have been targeted for believing and defending the Christian views on sexuality, gender and marriage.

“On paper, the Church of England believes and teaches exactly what Bernard said. But in practice, ministers like him are put through cruel safeguarding procedures as if believing the church’s own doctrine makes him a danger. The Bishop failed in any way to stand up for Bernard and is effectively seeking to end his ordained ministry.

“The further the Church of England goes in muddling and abandoning its own teaching, the more people like Bernard will be forced out through these tortuous and unreasonable processes.

“We will stand with Bernard and all others who continue to live and speak out the Christian faith in public life for as long as it takes.”

Background to the case

In July 2019, Dr Randall had given a moderate sermon, which encouraged debate and respect in the school’s CofE chapel on the CofE’s own teaching on marriage and human sexuality.

In the sermon he told students that it was ok to question ideological LGBT teaching.

Following a handful of complaints from students and staff, however, Dr Randall, without his knowledge, was reported by the college’s safeguarding team to Prevent, as a potential extremist.

Dr Randall had given the sermon in response to questions from students about the growing presence and influence of LGBT ideology and teaching in the school.

Earlier in the year a ‘gold standard’ LGBT programme, which promoted Queer Theory, had been embedded into the fabric of Trent College, a school which has a ‘Protestant and Evangelical’ CofE ethos.

Dr Randall had been alarmed when extreme and now discredited LGBT group, Educate and Celebrate, had been invited into the school for training and had encouraged staff to chant smash heteronormativity.’

Following the referral to Prevent, the school made a safeguarding referral to the CofE’s local Derby diocese. The school and the diocese remained in ‘close cooperation’ throughout the investigations that followed.

Despite Prevent and the local authority finding that Dr Randall had done nothing wrong, he was still forced out of employment at the school.

Instead of supporting Dr Randall, the diocese described his sacking as a ‘game changer’ which would pave the way for the CofE to also take action against him.

Lawyers for Dr Randall will argue that the events that followed reveal a campaign of harassment against him with the aim of ensuring Dr Randall could not officiate again.

A Data Subject Access request has revealed the sinister suggestion from a senior member of Derby Cathedral that there would be ‘implications’ for anyone associated with the Cathedral if they publicly supported Dr Randall in his legal action.

Disclosed correspondence has revealed, for example, that the Archdeacon of Derby (Revd Christopher Cunliffe) indicated in relation to Dr Randall’s case and sermon that: “there are a disproportionate number of people who are drawn to schools via the Church who have “this way of thinking.”

Expecting support from the Bishop of Derby, Dr Randall had, however, reached out to the diocese following his dismissal asking about a renewed licence, known as ‘Permission to Officiate’.

This would allow him to secure a new job as a chaplain within the CofE or in other organisations and institutions.

Rather than insist that Dr Randall undergo a safeguarding risk assessment, the Bishop of Derby, Rt. Rev. Libby Lane, was given an alternative course of action by her safeguarding team:

“The alternative course of action open to you is to say that you will not commission a risk assessment at this point as you consider this to be a matter of doctrine only and that you will advise future employers or dioceses that Dr. Randall has been the subject of a safeguarding referral and might require some support/supervision depending on the role for which he was applying. This would not provide a resolution of the safeguarding referral and this would remain on his Blue File.”

The Bishop, however, decided that this was not a ‘matter of doctrine’ and that a risk assessment was needed.

Even being part of such a process would be disclosed in any of Dr Randall’s future job applications and could make it impossible for him to secure employment as a priest.

In July 2021, Dr Randall was told that as part of the process he would need to undergo an independent safeguarding assessment by a psychologist. The psychologist chosen specialised in assessing sex-offenders.

He declined to do so because the process would require him to accept wrongdoing.

Carrying out their own assessment, which Dr Randall says involved ‘Stalinesque interrogations’, the diocese concluded in their report that, due to the content of his sermon and his refusal to believe that he had done anything wrong, he was a “moderate safeguarding risk to children” – only two steps down from the most severe abuse cases.

The report even concluded that the Church’s own teaching on marriage and human sexuality could be “a risk factor” to itself.

The diocese raised further telling concerns that Dr Randall’s sermon and beliefs were a “reputational risk to the organisation,” therefore they contacted the Charity Commission. Filling out the form to report the ‘incident’, they were asked if a crime had been committed to which they responded, “don’t know,” despite never having any indication of unlawful conduct.

Throughout the investigation by the Diocese of Derby, there has been an absence of any evidence that Dr Randall had behaved inappropriately in his dealings with anyone.

The local authority (LADO) indicated that there was no cause for concern and there was no evidence of inappropriate behaviour in relation to his pastoral ministry during his time at Trent College or previously.

Emails reveal the safeguarding team admitting: “there is no evidence that [Dr Randall] has ever failed to respond appropriately.”

Despite this evidence, Dr Randall has not officiated in a Church for three years. He has had to turn down invitations rather than break Church law.

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