|The court heard that the university’s investigatory team “accepted that Mr Ngole was fully entitled to his religious beliefs, and had acted with honesty and integrity“.
The university said that it was not Felix’s beliefs that were at issue, but his public posting of these beliefs. The university said that this expression of his views “may have caused offence to some individuals”.
The university argued that it was right to sanction Mr Ngole and bar him from his chosen profession despite the fact that Mr Ngole had lawfully expressed his Christian views as a practising Christian, outside of his professional studies, in a context in which he was not identified as a social work student, and despite this expression having no impact on his work and professional abilities!
The university agreed that there had been no cause for concern or evidence of Felix acting in a discriminatory fashion, whether on placement or otherwise.
The university’s decision was not based on speculation that Mr Ngole would discriminate in the future either. No discrimination by Felix had actually occurred, or was expected to occur.
What in the end was judged to have justified the university’s actions was a risk of damage by perception:
The court ruled that “It was how [Felix’s comments] could be accessed and read by people who would perceive them as judgemental, incompatible with service ethos, or suggestive of discriminatory intent.
“That was a problem in its own right. … But whatever the actual intention was, it was the perception of the posting that would cause the damage. It was reasonable to be concerned about that perception” (emphasis added).