- Book Reviews
Wednesday, May 12, 2021 : By Standing for Freedom Staff
For a person to be reported to an anti-terrorism agency, one would expect that they had been frequenting extremist websites and message boards, writing a manifesto, or building bombs in their basement, but for one Christian school in the United Kingdom, simply questioning LGBT orthodoxy was enough to warrant the designation.
The situation happened after Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall, the chaplain at Trenton College in Nottingham, England, preached a sermon to students in which he said, “So I want to say to everyone, but especially to those who have been troubled, that you are not obliged to accept someone else’s ideology. You are perfectly at liberty to hear ideas out, and then think, ‘No, not for me.’”
Randall was discussing views on gay marriage, transgenderism, and the school’s Educate and Celebrate program and teaching students that they should think for themselves and should not be required to violate their beliefs.
He encouraged the students by saying, “You might be concerned that if you take the religious view on these matters you will be attacked and accused of homophobia and the like. But remember that religious belief is just as protected in law as sexual orientation, and no one has the right to discriminate against you or be abusive towards you.”
Randall likely did not expect his employer, a supposedly Christian institution, would then discriminate against its own chaplain for these words.
The chaplain’s sermon was prompted by several students approaching him and explaining that they were confused and upset by the new LGBT-inclusive “Educate and Celebrate” program at the school.
Dr. Elly Barnes, founder of the curriculum, visited the school to train staff on how they could “embed gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation into the fabric” of the school.
Randall, who has also served as chaplain at Christ’s College, Cambridge, was concerned when school staff were instructed to chant “smash heteronormativity” at the training. After voicing his concerns, he was assured that he would be involved in any decision on whether to implement the program but soon found that the program had already been put into place.
In his sermon, entitled “Competing Ideologies,” Randall said,
“So my answer is this: There are some aspects of the Educate and Celebrate programme which are simply factual — there are same-sex attracted people in our society, there are people who experience gender dysphoria, and so on. There are some areas where the two sets of values overlap — no one should be discriminated against simply for who he or she is: That’s a Christian value, based in loving our neighbours as ourselves. All these things should be accepted straightforwardly by all of us, and it’s right that equalities law reflects that.”
Randall then encouraged students that, at the same time, it is okay to disagree.
“But there are areas where the two sets of ideas are in conflict, and in these areas you do not have to accept the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists. Indeed, since Trent exists ‘to educate boys and girls according to the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England,’ anyone who tells you that you must accept contrary principles is jeopardizing the school’s charitable status, and therefore it’s very existence.”
He added, “You should no more be told you have to accept LGBT ideology than you should be told you must be in favour of Brexit, or must be Muslim — to both of which I’m sure most of you would quite rightly object.”
After his sermon critiquing LGBT orthodoxy, he was told he had hurt people’s feelings and was being suspended and investigated. What he was not told was that he had been reported to the anti-terror agency Prevent and Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), which deals with child protection cases.
He was told that he was forbidden from speaking on subjects “likely to cause offence or distress to members of the school body” and was instructed not to “publicly express beliefs in ways which exploit our pupils’ vulnerability.”
He was also told to turn in a draft of all sermons before preaching. Randall discovered that he had been reported as a potential terror threat because the information was in documents given to him before a disciplinary hearing. He explained his shock at learning of this:
“I had visions of being investigated by MI5, of men knocking down the front door. When I found out that they had reported me without telling me, my mind was blown trying to comprehend it. I had gone to such lengths in the sermon to stress that we must respect one another no matter what, even people we disagree with. I am not ashamed to say that I cried with relief when I was told that the report to Prevent was not going to be taken further. Yet I ended up being told that I had to support everybody else’s beliefs, no matter what, while my Christian beliefs, the Church of England’s beliefs, were blatantly censored. I don’t think the Church of England is an extremist organisation.”
Toby Young of the Free Speech Union weighed in on the situation by saying, “What’s so depressing about his treatment is the message it sends to the pupils. The central theme of his sermon is that children shouldn’t be afraid to think for themselves. But the message the school has sent is the opposite. Schools should be teaching children how to think, not what to think.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, asked, “When an ordained Church of England minister can’t give a simple sermon in a Church of England school without being reported as an extremist and hounded out of his job, then who is safe?”
She added, “For many years Bernard Randall has worked in education motivated by his love for God and others. When someone like him is pursued and punished it’s an attack on us all. It’s time to stand up and speak up for these freedoms. All those that said it couldn’t happen — punishing and criminalising a Christian minister for preaching from the Bible — need to take a long, hard look at the story of Bernard Randall.”
Randall was initially fired, but that decision was reversed by the School Governors. He was then put on furlough during the COVID lockdown and has been welcomed back. He has since filed a lawsuit against the school under the Equality Act of 2010, alleging religious discrimination, harassment, and unfair dismissal.
Whatever the outcome of his case, Randall noted that his experience should serve as a warning to other Christians, as all people who believe in biblical truths are being sent a message that they are not free to discuss the tenets of their faith or to share their faith with anyone.
“It seems it is no longer enough to just ‘tolerate’ LGBT ideology,” he stated. “You must accept it without question and no debate is allowed without serious consequences. Someone else will decide what is and what isn’t acceptable, and suddenly you can become an outcast, possibly for the rest of your life. I 100 percent see what has happened to me in Orwellian terms. Truth matters, but increasingly powerful groups in our society do not care about the truth.”
His story illustrates his claims. Encouraging students to think for themselves and telling them that it’s okay to hold to their religious beliefs was enough for a Christian school’s leaders to report their own chaplain to authorities and have him placed on a terrorist watchlist.
For anyone still doubting the doomsday warnings concerning the left’s militant hatred of religious views, look no further than this story. There can be no dissent in the left’s world, and unless Christians and conservatives stand up, the world will soon belong solely to radicals who seem intent on devouring the hearts, minds, bodies, and souls of our children.