An employment appeal tribunal in the U.K. has removed a trans activist from hearing the case of a Christian teacher who was allegedly harassed, discriminated against and fired over private Facebook posts expressing concerns about transgenderism and sex education at her son’s Church of England primary school.
Justice Eady, the president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, concluded in her judgment that Edward Lord, who had been appointed as the lay member of the panel to hear the appeal of Kristie Higgs, be recused from hearing the case.
Eady said she was “satisfied that if the lay member were to sit on the Employment Appeal Tribunal panel on this appeal, the fair-minded and informed observer could not exclude the possibility of bias.”
She added, “…There was a real ground for doubt in the lay member’s ability to approach this matter with an impartial and entirely open mind. That being so, the lay member would be recused from hearing this appeal.”
However, the lay member refused to recuse himself.
Higgs, 46, a mother of two, was dismissed for gross misconduct in 2019 after Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire, where she worked, received an anonymous complaint against her for sharing and commenting on Facebook posts that criticized plans to introduce Relationships and Sex Education to children as young as age 4.
The British charity Christian Concern, whose legal arm, the Christian Legal Centre, represented the Christian teacher, said justice must be done and must also be seen to be done.
“We faced no alternative but to challenge Edward Lord’s involvement in this case,” said the group’s chief executive Andrea Williams. “It’s not hard to see the conflict of interest in this case — a member of the tribunal going out of his way to publicly announce he blocks people on Twitter for expressing concerns on trans issues; the views Kristie was dismissed for.”
Higgs said she was “relieved at the decision to recuse Edward Lord.”
“He has made many public statements that strongly oppose the Christian beliefs at the heart of my case and I feared that his presence on the panel could lessen my chances of getting a fair hearing,” she noted.
However, she added, she was “disappointed that because of raising this issue, the full appeal hearing will be delayed again.”
“This is another challenge, however, that I am determined to overcome as I continue to seek justice.”
Higgs concluded, “I am grateful to God for sustaining me this far and am sure that He will provide for all my needs going forward.”
Last month, Justice Eady ruled that the British Equality Act protects Christians’ beliefs that do not affirm transgenderism, but they cannot express those beliefs in the workplace. The judgment was concerning a Christian doctor whose work contract was terminated over his refusal to refer to a man as a woman.