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An English pastor is suing his local public school after he was driven from his second job as the school’s caretaker for posting a message on Twitter reminding Christians not to participate in LGBT Pride events.
Ely, a town 14 miles northeast of Cambridge, was preparing to host its annual LGBT Pride Festival in June. Keith Waters, 53, who serves as pastor of Ely’s New Connexions Free Church, wanted to warn Christians of the dangers of such events. Copying and slightly modifying a tweet from Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin, Waters tweeted on June 1: “A reminder that Christians should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride month’ events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. They are especially harmful to children.”
“The backlash was savage and swift,” reported Church Militant. “LGBT activists from Ely went ballistic and stirred up local residents in an attempt to drive the pastor and his family out of the countrified cathedral town.”
A local journalist and LGBT advocate almost immediately tweeted back, accusing Waters of attacking the local LGBT community.
The next day, council member Alison Whelan tagged the East Cambridgeshire police in a tweet demanding that Waters’ tweet be investigated as a “hate incident.”
On June 3, Waters made the front page of the Cambridge Evening News in an article that negatively contrasted his views with those of the local Anglican bishop, whose church flew a rainbow flag in support of the previous year’s Pride festival — an action the paper stated “did not represent a move from traditional church teachings on sexuality and gender.”
Waters acquitted himself well in his comments to the Evening News. Pride, he explained, “suggests something which is unbiblical is good. I’m not saying it’s not okay for people to be who they are, our view is everybody, unless it is who they are by Jesus and saved by Jesus, is none of us are the right people. We’re all messed up. It’s a case of loving everybody, but not necessarily loving what everybody does.”
That wasn’t the end of Waters’ troubles. According to a press release from Christian Concern, whose legal-aid arm, the Christian Legal Centre, is handling Waters’ case, the pastor “experienced a string of threats including his wife having to answer the door to funeral directors who had been sent to arrange his ‘funeral.’ [Real estate] agents contacted him, having been told he was moving from the area ‘in a hurry,’ and he was nearly knocked off his bike by an angry local resident in a car who wanted to remonstrate with him. False rumors were spread that Pastor Waters was a child molester.”
The ongoing threats to himself, his family, and his church led Waters to delete his tweet, but the persecution kept on coming.
At the time, Waters was supplementing his income from the church by working as a caretaker at the Isle of Ely Primary School. Waters’ last performance review called him “an asset to the school.”
Having received “a handful of complaints” about Waters’ tweet, including the ludicrous claim that he was threatening “violence” against Pride supporters, the school’s headteacher issued him “a final warning for allegedly bringing the school into disrepute and breaking the code of conduct,” wrote Christian Concern.
“As a result,” the group continued, “Pastor Waters believed he could no longer combine his roles as a Christian pastor and caretaker at the school, and decided that he had no alternative but to resign.”
Waters is suing the school for constructive dismissal (forced resignation due to a hostile work environment), indirect discrimination, and breach of public sector equality duty.
“Anyone who believes in freedom of religion and expression should be very concerned about my story,” Waters said. “This was an attack, not just against my Christian beliefs, but against anyone who dares to question these matters in public. The biggest concern should be that a story like mine is becoming normal.”
Indeed, noted Christian Legal Centre chief executive Andrea Williams, “This is not a local issue … but a growing intolerant and threatening trend towards, not just Christians, but anyone across the country who dares to oppose Pride.”
Sadly, the same can be said of many other nominally Christian countries, including the United States.