A conservative Christian group has slammed a court ruling that went against a devout Christian student who was expelled from a University of Sheffield course after posting his opposition to gay marriage online.
"Rulings like this show that society is becoming increasingly intolerant of Christian moral values. Christians are being told to shut up and keep quiet about their moral views or face a bar from employment. Unless the views you express are politically correct, you may be barred from office. This is very far from how a free and fair society should operate," Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, said in a press release on Friday.
"We will appeal this ruling in an attempt to protect basic freedoms in our society. No democratic society can function without freedom of expression. This ruling shakes the foundations of freedom in our society."
ITV reported that Deputy High Court Judge Rowena Collins Rice ruled against the student, Felix Ngole, arguing that his religious freedom has not been violated.
"Public religious speech has to be looked at in a regulated context from the perspective of a public readership," Rice explained in the decision.
"Social workers have considerable power over the lives of vulnerable service users and trust is a precious professional commodity."
Felix Ngole, who was studying for an MA in social work, found himself in trouble with the U.K. university in 2015 after posting online comments in support of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who was held in jail for several days for refusing to register same-sex marriages.
Ngole argued that "same sex marriage is a sin whether we like it or not. It is God's words and man's sentiments would not change His words."
The student was later interviewed by an investigatory team from the university over his comments. He was removed from the course by a panel chaired by a professor who is also an LGBT rights campaigner.
Ngole challenged the decision at the High Court, which has now sided with the university. The court said that the student was not removed for his personal views, but for choosing to make them public online, which "may have caused offence to some individuals."
The judgment stated: "Freedom of expression is an important right. Exercising that right to express the content of deeply held religious views deserves respect in a democratic and plural society, nowhere more so than in a university. Freedom of religious discourse is a public good of great importance and seriousness."
It further acknowledged that Ngole has not discriminated against anyone, but insisted that the university's actions were reasonable, due to the concern of potential harm caused by the comments.
Ngole expressed disappointment at the ruling, and said that he intends to further appeal the decision, which he argued restricts him from expressing his Christian faith in public.
Williams accused the university of acting "as if they are thought police."
"This ruling will have a chilling effect on Christian students up and down the country who will now understand that their personal social media posts may be investigated for political correctness," she added.
"This ruling flies in the face of the government's expressed intention to promote free speech at universities."