A housing manager in Manchester, England, was demoted by the organization he works for after sharing his beliefs against gay marriage in a post on his personal Facebook page.
Adrian Smith, a 54-year-old Christian man, is now suing the Trafford Housing Trust, saying his free speech rights have been violated and the punishment was inappropriate, according to Daily Mail. Following a disciplinary hearing, Smith was demoted from his position as a housing manager and his salary was reduced from £35,000 (about $60,000 USD) per year to £21,000 (about $34,000 USD).
The controversy began in February when Smith posted to his Facebook page the link to a BBC article, “Gay church marriages get go-ahead.” The article addresses a proposal that could result in a ban being lifted which has previously prevented civil partnership ceremonies from being performed in religious settings in England and Wales. In addition to posting the link Smith also wrote, “An equality too far.”
One of his colleagues from Trafford Housing, a not for profit housing association, commented on the post and asked, “Does this mean you don't approve?”
“No, not really,” Smith replied. “I don't understand why people who have no faith and don't believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church. The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women.”
He also said that the state can choose to allow same civil unions if it wants to, but it “shouldn't impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.”
Only Smith's friends on Facebook could view the post initially – his profile was not made available for public view – but unfortunately some of his coworkers, who were also his Facebook friends, saw his comments and complained. He was later forced to take it down following backlash from the association.
On Sunday, Trafford Housing released a statement clarifying their reason for taking disciplinary action against Smith. In 2010, the association updated its code of conduct and distributed it to all 360 members of its staff. Included in the code were guidelines, the statement says, that “set out what use employees can make of social networking sites such as Facebook.”
Smith's Facebook page clearly identified him as a manager for the association, and, following an investigation, his comments were found to be in violation of company code.
“Mr. Smith was disciplined for his breach of company policy,” the statement says. “The Trust made no comment about any personal beliefs that he holds.” The association later states that the company will “vigorously defend its position” when it meets with Smith in court.
But Daily Mail reports that Smith's lawyers think that he has been treated unfairly, and will fight for damages in the amount of the pay Smith has lost.
“When Adrian was told that he was being demoted with a 40 percent cut in salary, he was stunned,” his attorneys said. “Nothing he said was offensive or abusive. His comments were calm, measured and reasonable ... Even those who disagree with his opinions will surely agree that he has been treated badly.”
Smith has also received the support of The Christian Institute, an organization that exists to further and promote Christianity in the United Kingdom. Mike Judge, head of communications for the institute, says Smith's comments didn't warrant the punishment he was given.
“Employers have a responsibility to protect the rights of their staff – and that includes their Christian staff,” Judge said. “One set of rights should not trump another. It looks to me like there has been some sort of witch hunt against Mr Smith simply because of his Christian views.”