A Christian pastor and school caretaker, who received a death threat and was hounded out of his job for a tweet that said LGBTQ pride events should not be attended by Christians and children, is to have his legal case heard.
Following a social media witch hunt, which ultimately forced him out of his caretaker job, Pastor Keith Waters, 55, launched legal action against the Active Learning Trust with the support of the Christian Legal Centre.
There will be a trial in Cambridge this week before a full Employment Tribunal, where his lawyers will argue that the Isle of Ely primary school interfered with his rights to freedom of religion, expression and thought.
He will claim for constructive dismissal, indirect discrimination, and breach of public sector equality duty.
Lawyers will say that the tweet that led to his resignation was a manifestation of his Christian beliefs and that, following the landmark high court ruling in the case of Felix Ngole, historic Christian views on sexual ethics should not be confused with homophobia or discrimination against homosexuals.
Working part time as a caretaker
In 2016, Pastor Waters took a 60% pay cut from his role as an Estates Manager at one of Cambridge University’s largest colleges, to work part time as a caretaker at the Isle of Ely Primary School so he could pastor his local Evangelical Church, Ely New Connexions Church.
The job was taken with the agreement that he if there was a conflict with his job as a Pastor, his pastoral job would take priority.
From the outset, he said that he would “be unequivocal in publicly stating the Christian doctrine on various issues, some of which may be unpopular.”
On 1 June 2019, at the beginning of LGBTQ pride month, Pastor Waters tweeted:
“A reminder that Christians should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. They are especially harmful to children.”
Pastor Waters says his intention was to address and warn Christians about LGBTQ pride events across the UK as they often involve nudity, people in sadomasochistic outfits and displays of an overtly sexual nature.
He believes LGBTQ pride events are diametrically opposed to Christian beliefs on sexual ethics and therefore are harmful, especially for young children who often attend or are encouraged to attend.
Yet the consequences of this solitary tweet for Pastor Waters were terrifying, as he and his family faced a string of coordinated threats aimed at forcing him out of his job and the town.
Within minutes of sending the post, he received a tweet from a local journalist, John Elworthy, accusing him of attacking the local LGBTQ community in Ely ahead of pride events that month.
The following morning, as Pastor Waters was preparing for a Sunday service at his church, a hostile Cambridge-based journalist tried to force him into apologising for the tweet, which he refused to do.
By Monday, he was on the front page of the Cambridge Evening News and online abuse continued to grow with local councillors and pressure groups creating a toxic atmosphere.
During this period, his wife answered the door to funeral directors who had been sent to arrange his ‘funeral’; likewise, estate agents contacted him having been told he was moving from the area ‘in a hurry’.
Pastor Waters was also nearly knocked off his bike by an angry local resident in a car who wanted to remonstrate with him.
Furthermore, false rumours were spread that he was a child molester and there were calls from local councillors for him to be investigated by police for a ‘hate incident.’
Fearing for his, his family’s, and his church members’ safety, Pastor Waters decided to delete the tweet.
However, his caretaker role at the local primary school then came under threat as the headteacher informed him that he was being investigated for bringing the school ‘into disrepute’ after receiving a handful of complaints as part of the campaign against him.
One letter to the school claimed that Pastor Waters’ tweet called for ‘violence against people who support the Ely Pride Festival’.
An anonymous teacher also claimed that his tweet fell ‘within the British government’s definition of extremism’ and that action must be taken against him.
Pastor Waters was then invited to an investigation meeting, which he was told was strictly confidential and must not be discussed with anyone other than his family members.
However, despite the confidentiality direction he had been placed under, it would appear that a letter detailing the investigation was leaked to members of the wider school community before Pastor Waters was himself made aware of them.
The letter also stated inaccurately that the allegations against him related to ‘recent reports of comments you have made in the public domain concerning the status and sexual identity of members of the local community.’
‘An asset to the school’
Until this point, Pastor Waters was a liked and respected member of staff, and at his final appraisal was described as ‘an asset to the school’.
Going above and beyond in his role as caretaker, he used his expertise to put in place fire safety policies, and organised gardening lessons for troubled pupils who were physically threatening teachers.
Following the complaints, however, Pastor Waters, was shunned and avoided by senior management and prevented from carrying out some of his regular duties.
After the investigation, Pastor Waters was told that his tweet was ‘highly inappropriate and offensive’, and that he had brought the school into disrepute and broken the code of conduct and he was issued with a final written warning.
Pastor Waters believed he faced no alternative but to resign as he could no longer combine his roles as a Christian pastor and caretaker at the school.
Ahead of the hearing Pastor Waters said: “The whole episode left me in emotional turmoil and has taken a lasting toll on me and my family. In 37 years of employment, I had never been treated in such an uncaring and hostile way. I was left with the choice of resigning or being silenced and unable to express my beliefs as a Christian pastor.
“I had lots of parents pulling me to the side telling me that they supported me, but they wouldn’t dare say so out of fear that the social media mob would also turn on them.
“Being given a final warning meant that I would not be able to do the things I do as a pastor, which is standing up for the truth of the Bible.
“I’m not doing this because I want to sue the school, but because I believe it’s the right thing to do. I want to ensure that other Pastors in the future that have to work part time in a secular organisation, will be free to preach the truth and not lose their job.
“I still stand by what I said, and I’ll always stand up for the truth. I believe that children’s safety is paramount.
“Through the investigation, disciplinary action and appeal the school seemed unable to distinguish between homosexual people and LGBTQ pride. They are two separate things. There are many people with same sex attraction who are totally opposed to what happens at Pride parades as one of the stated aims of the ‘Pride’ movement is to celebrate a wide variety of sexual lifestyles, which are diametrically opposed to Christian sexual ethics.
“Anyone who attends a ‘Pride’ event risks being exposed to obscenities. That is self-evidently harmful for children and in a free, responsible and truly loving society we must be free to say that and raise concern without fear.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “What happened to Keith Waters is the latest in a long line of cases where honest, kind, normal people are subjected to harassment and intimidation for expressing moderate, mainstream Christian views on sexual ethics.
“We live in a world where even questioning the LGBTQ agenda can land you in serious trouble.
“This is another example of how far LGBTQ advocates are prepared to go to silence mainstream Christian views.
“For loving Jesus, speaking biblical truth, and caring for the welfare of children, Keith became persona non grata – his words and intentions distorted, his character assassinated.
“Our schools and churches need more community-minded people like him, not less. For sending one tweet, that raised genuine concern for children, he was vilified, threatened and hounded out of his employment.
“Despite an abundance of psychological studies concluding that children exposed to sexually explicit content at an early age are more likely to develop disorders and addictions, there are many articles online that encourage parents to bring their children to Pride parades.
“Why should a Christian pastor not be able to speak out on such concerning issues without being threatened and losing his job?
“Keith’s story is part of a cancel culture where issues, such as LGBTQ pride, cannot be questioned or critiqued without individuals being silenced, vilified or worse.
“We stand with Keith as he seeks justice this week.”
Find out more about Keith Waters