This week, the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) is seeking to remove a high-performing Christian teacher from the profession for allegedly ‘misgendering’ a pupil who self-identified as a ‘boy’.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Joshua Sutcliffe, 32, from London, faces a series of allegations before the TRA’s professional conduct panel in Coventry from 9 to 13 January, which also include him calling Muhammad a “false prophet” on his personal YouTube channel.
If the TRA is successful, then the outcome of the hearing could result in him being struck off and unable to teach.
Suspended for ‘misgendering’
In 2017, Joshua made headlines after taking legal action against Cherwell school in Oxfordshire after he was suspended and dismissed for allegedly ‘misgendering’ a female student, ‘Pupil A’, that self identified as a boy. He immediately apologised when he realised ‘Pupil A’ was in the group of female students he addressed. Nonetheless, Joshua was subsequently suspended despite having an exemplary teaching performance record and being popular with senior management, parents and pupils.
Joshua said he avoided using gender specific pronouns to accommodate “Pupil A’s’ needs and his own Bible-based Christian beliefs that humans are born male or female.” However, the school chose to aggressively force its own secular ideology, and refused to accommodate Joshua’s Christian beliefs.
Joshua maintains that he had had no training on trans and ‘misgendering’ issues and that school bosses sought to ‘intimidate’ him into submission or resignation.
When the story broke in the media, former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit said: “It seems to me this is a mad world when someone is disciplined for stating a biological fact.”
An investigation in December 2017, however, alleged that Joshua had “misgendered” the Oxford pupil which the school said broke its policy on equality. Joshua denied he had ‘misgendered’ anyone and told the head teacher he did “not share [his] belief in the ideology of transgenderism” and subsequently took legal action for constructive dismissal and discrimination.
Joshua, who also regularly preaches on the street and says he has given out over 2,000 Bibles to members of the public, said he had been “placed on the altar of ‘cancel culture'”. He said he was unlawfully targeted and punished by the school because he had been vocal about his evangelical Christian beliefs.
The case was later settled out of court.
Forced to resign for critiquing Islam
However, in November 2019, Joshua was forced to resign from another school, St Aloysius in North London, over views he posted on his personal YouTube channel.
An active evangelist outside of work, Joshua, whose videos include his views about the Bible and Christianity, said he was “constructively dismissed” from the Catholic school in Islington where he had been teaching for over a year after he “made a video in which [he] said ‘Muhammad is a false prophet’.”
In the video, he also comments: “I would suggest that Muslims have a false understanding of God because they’ve been led by a false prophet,” and that “the fruit of Islam is not peace, it’s division.”
Other allegations brought by the TRA this week include Joshua being accused by Cherwell bosses of sharing his belief that same-sex marriage is wrong after he was asked for his views by a pupil. Joshua was asked for his views during a Bible group session he had set up as part of the Christian Union he had started at the school.
In response, Joshua will cite at the hearing a statement made by then-Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill that: “Any teacher, if asked direct or invited to share his view by a parent or a student, is perfectly at liberty to say, with equal marriage – as with adultery, divorce or abortion – what their own moral view might be.”
It is further alleged by TRA that Joshua showed PragerU videos on ‘Make Men Masculine Again’ in form time. Joshua denies showing PragerU in form time but mentioned that they were available online.
‘Freedom of religion in Britain’
At the hearing, international Christian theologian and registered Court Expert Witness, Dr Martin Parsons, will provide expert evidence on the range of theological issues raised in the case, including on issues of transgenderism:
“The beliefs of Mr Sutcliffe in relation to transgender and which were the subject of investigation, disciplinary procedures and dismissal by Cherwell School are based on his Evangelical Christian faith. They reflect Christian doctrine that God created man as distinctively male and female and that the body is a unity, which cannot be divided between genetic sex and gender. These are beliefs which are shared by a significant number of other Evangelical Christians as well as many Catholics.”
His evidence concludes, stating:
“Christians are required as a matter of biblical obedience to obey secular authorities. However, where the state demands obedience in matters which specifically conflicts with the teaching of the Bible, Evangelical Christians are likely to understand themselves as having a biblical duty “to obey God rather than man” – even if this means suffering persecution. Prior to 1689 when the Toleration Act was passed, a significant number of Bible believing Christians in Britain were prepared to face execution, with thousands more subject to imprisonment for their faith.
“However, the understanding that there are legitimate separate spheres for church and state and the enshrining of these in aspects of constitutional law, led to the establishment of freedom of religion in Britain, which later spread to other countries of the world.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The TRA is targeting an exceptional teacher because his Christian beliefs do not fall in line with the prevailing secular orthodoxy which cannot tolerate any dissent.
“For loving Jesus, speaking truth in his personal time and responding to questions from students on the Christian faith, he is being hounded out of the teaching profession.
“With critical shortages of teachers in the profession, why are the TRA so determined to force a high-performing teacher out for their Christian beliefs?
“True ‘misgendering’ is accepting trans identities.
“We will continue to stand with Joshua as he seeks justice this week.”
Find out more about Joshua Sutcliffe