Flat White

Britain’s Israel Folau wins his case

4 July 2019

7:55 PM

4 July 2019

7:55 PM

Like Australia’s Israel Folau, British student Felix Ngole, is a litmus test regarding freedom of religion, as well as freedom of speech, in the Western World. And for all those concerned about the future of freedom of speech in this country, it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. As John Steenhof, the managing director of Human Rights Law Alliance, has noted:

Britain’s second-highest court handed down a decision on religious freedom yesterday that will send chills down the collective spine of Rugby Australia. In contrast, Israel Folau and his team will be thanking God for divine providence that is akin to manna from heaven.

Just in case you’re not familiar with his case, Ngole had been previously dismissed from his postgraduate social work degree at Sheffield University for expressing the Biblical—and historically orthodox—Christian view that homosexuality is a sin. According to Eternity News (emphasis mine):

In some shocking exchanges from the High Court hearing, the University of Sheffield implied that Felix was not allowed to express the Christian viewpoint on same-sex marriage or homosexuality on any public forum, including in a church.

However, the UK Court of Appeal has recently ruled that the University was wrong to expel Ngole and overturned the High Court ruling, stating:

The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that ‘homosexuality is a sin’) does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds.

The reason why this particular legal ruling was so important was not only because of the impact it had on Ngole’s prospects for future employment, but also because of the “chilling effect” it could have on other people of faith in being able to express their own religious convictions in the public square. As the BBC reported:

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr Ngole, said: “The court has ruled that though Mr Ngole is entitled to hold his Biblical views on sexual ethics, he is not entitled to express them.

“But freedom to believe without freedom of expression is no freedom at all.

“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.”

Williams is right. Because what is being observed in countries where the definition of marriage is re-defined to include people of the same sex, is it isn’t long before people in general, and religious leaders in particular, are prohibited from speaking against homosexuality.

The Prime Minister of Sweden, for instance, has said, “No priest in the Swedish Church can refuse to marry same-sex couples”. What’s more, he has also stated that only those who agree with same-sex marriage should be given the opportunity to be ordained.

Alternatively, on the other side of the Atlantic, legislation is currently being put forward to force pastors and other ministry workers to embrace pro-LGBTIQ ideology. For instance, Fox News has reported:

About three dozen Californian lawmakers are pushing for Resolution ACR 99, which calls on counsellors, pastors, religious workers, educators and institutions to stop labelling homosexuality and transgenderism a sin, saying it’s harmful and unethical.

This is a key moment for Christians throughout the world. The current anti-Christian zeitgeist insists that everyone must bow down and worship the almighty rainbow. And if you don’t, let alone dare to speak against it, then you will face immediate social and financial recriminations.

All of which is to say, it is time for people of faith to have the courage to exercise their spiritual convictions. To be prepared to not bend the knee to the idol that this world calls on us to worship, and to join the great cloud of witnesses who suffered and even died for what they believed.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.

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