A devout Christian who was thrown off a university course for posting derogatory comments about gay men and bisexuals online has appealed against the decision today, despite standing by his views.
Speaking exclusively to metro.co.uk, Felix Ngole, 40, insisted he is ‘not homophobic’ but follows the Bible by the book, including its ‘teaching’ that ‘homosexuality is a sin’.
The qualified teacher was not allowed to finish his social work degree at Sheffield University after wading into a 2015 Facebook debate about jailed US registrar, Kim Davis, who refused to sign same-sex marriage certificates.
Ngole, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said he ‘defended an attacked fellow Christian’ and copied around eight passages from the Bible quoting that ‘gay marriage is a sin’.
Sheffield University decided to expel the student, which he took to the High Court in October 2017 but Deputy High Court judge, Rowena Collins Rice, ruled that university bosses had acted within the law.
Lawyers said university bosses had to consider Ngole’s fitness to practice as he had posted comments on a publicly accessible Facebook page which were ‘derogatory of gay men and bisexuals’.
But the Christian claims his right to ‘freedom of speech’ has been breached and today asked three Court of Appeal judges to reconsider his case today.
Activists have slammed the appeal and highlighted that as a social worker Ngole would be working with young LGBT people to whom his views would be ‘dangerous’.
Speaking today, Ngole told metro.co.uk: ‘The university’s position is that I can’t express those views at all. Not on Facebook, not in the street, not in church. I find it really difficult to accept.
‘They said that I would have to forget the scripture that says homosexuality is a sin. That’s putting anyone in a very difficult situation. I’m a Christian, it’s the word of God.’
He added: ‘I agree with everything in the Bible.’
Ngole, a youth worker, says he works with ‘everyone’ because ‘I’m a Christian who loves everyone and gay people were created by God’.
He adds that he has never received any complaints, despite his devout religious views, and says he has colleagues in same sex relationships.
He added: ‘I am not homophobic. Anyone that calls me homophobic is referring to my views on sexual ethics.’
Ngole said that his ‘sexual ethics’ are based on those that are in the Bible and referred to ‘adultery and homosexuality’ – which are considered sins.
He added: ‘I do understand that some people would be upset [by the comments], but if I said same sex relationships are okay you will have critics who will also be offended.
‘But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to express my views.’
The former student said he wanted the university to teach him how to appropriately express himself and believes he can separate his views from his job.
But founder of the UK Pride Network, Steve Taylor, told metro.co.uk that he does not believe a ‘fundamentalist’ could put their ‘crazy beliefs’ to one side and be a social worker.
‘People choose their religion, people don’t choose their sexuality,’ he said.
‘So, to discriminate against someone because of something that you read in a book, that’s largely discredited… is just crazy.’
The campaigner said although he respects freedom of religion and freedom of expression as equally important human rights, he is concerned that Ngole would not care for his clients.
He added: ‘It would be a danger to colleagues and the people he would be supporting, who are some of the most vulnerable people in society. It would put more people at risk.’
One thing the activist did agree with, however, is that Ngole should be allowed back to university – but needs to ‘forget the idea of studying social work’.
He said: ‘He should be let back into uni to be taught educational, rational thought – that is what is going to make him realise his views are idiotic.’
Ngole’s lawyer yesterday told appeal judges Lord Justice Irwin, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Sir Jack Beatson that Deputy High Court Judge Collins Rice’s 2017 ruling raised an Orwellian spectre.
Barrister Paul Diamond said: ‘The judgment of Ms Collins Rice effectively gives professional regulators the powers of an Orwellian Thought Police over those six million people and abdicates the court’s responsibility to protect their freedom of expression.’
The two-day appeal hearing ended today and a decision is expected in due course.
Speaking ahead of the ruling, Evangelical Christian and LGBTQ+ activist, Jayne Ozanne, said Ngole has shown ‘no evidence’ so far that he can put aside his views and carry out the job effectively.
She said: ‘As a social worker he will be with vulnerable people, some of whom will be LGBT.
‘Those views will cause great harm on them.’
Meanwhile, Christian Concern has called Ngole a ‘hero for Christians in our country who stand for Biblical truth’.
A Sheffield University spokesperson told metro.co.uk: ‘This appeal follows the ruling by a Deputy High Court judge that the decision to exclude Mr Ngole from the MA Social Work course on the grounds of Fitness to Practise was lawful and proportionate.
‘The University of Sheffield supports the right of students to hold and debate a wide range of views and beliefs. However, students studying on courses that lead to professional registration have additional responsibilities and universities are required to assess these in line with national professional guidelines.’