University student axed from course for anti-gay comments loses High Court appeal

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A trainee social worker has lost his appeal at the High Court after being removed from his University for calling gay people an ‘abomination’ on Facebook.

Felix Ngole was removed from his postgraduate course in social work after reportedly posting ‘derogatory’ comments in a Facebook argument, including comments stating that homosexuality was a sin.

Mr Ngole went on to cite Leviticus in the public post, writing: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death.”

The comments were made last February as part of a debate about US county clerk Kim Davis, who had refused to register same-sex marriages in the state of Kentucky.

Mr Ngole, a devout Christian, claimed he was expressing his traditional Christian view within the limits of the law and that his removal was a breach of his rights to free speech and religious expression.

University of Sheffield
Part of the University of Sheffield (Photo: Creative Commons)

However, Sheffield University said it was concerned his publicly expressed views towards gay people could affect his work as a social worker.

In the initial case, Mr Ngole’s barrister said: “The expression that homosexuality is a ‘sin’, or even use of the strong Biblical term of ‘abomination’, is a lawful religious expression.”

In April 2017, the 39-year-old was granted the right to take the case to the High Court.

The High Court ruled on Friday to uphold his removal from the University.

Mr Ngole was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, a group who come to the aid of people accused of homophobia and discrimination.

The Christian Legal Centre said: “The university’s treatment of Felix fundamentally violates its responsibilities under human rights legislation.”

Representing Sheffield University, barrister Sarah Hannett said that Mr Ngole had “posted comments on a publicly accessible Facebook page that were derogatory of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.”

“The views expressed are likely to undermine the trust and confidence that lesbian, gay and bisexual clients are entitled to have in his professional role as a social worker (and in the social work profession more widely).”

Lawyers from the University highlighted that Mr Ngole was studying for a qualification in social work and that the University had to take his ‘fitness to practice’ into account.