A Christian school assistant who was dismissed after sharing Facebook posts that her employer deemed transphobic and homophobic has been granted permission to take her case to the Court of Appeal.
Kristie Higgs, 47, has been locked in a five-year legal battle with former bosses at Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire.
Last year at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the judge granted Higgs permission to appeal the original 2020 tribunal ruling, but instead of allowing all of her grounds of appeal to proceed, she denied her an outright win by ruling that the case should be remitted back to the employment tribunal to be reheard.
Higgs lost her job after expressing views about how LGBT relationships and sex education (RSE) were taught in schools. The posts in 2018 were shared on her private Facebook profile and did not name her employer.
The school received complaints about the posts and she was later dismissed for gross misconduct in relation to discrimination, inappropriate use of social media and online comments. She claimed that her views were compared with Nazism when the school questioned her about the posts.
The original tribunal dismissed Higgs’ case against Farmor’s school, finding it did not directly discriminate or harass her on the basis of her religion. The ruling acknowledged that Higgs’ beliefs are protected by the Equality Act, but found she was dismissed because some of the content in the articles she had linked to could lead someone to think that she “was hostile towards the LGBT community, and trans people in particular”.
Kristie Higgs’ case
In taking her case to the EAT, lawyers successfully appealed the inclusion of two appeal panel members for their apparent bias, one a trans activist with links to Stonewall, the other a senior trade unionist at the National Education Union, which had backed making RSE mandatory in primary schools.
Both lay members were recused and the EAT judge, Justice Eady, eventually heard the case alone.
In June 2023, Eady said: “The freedom to manifest belief (religious or otherwise) and to express views relating to that belief are essential rights in any democracy, whether or not the belief in question is popular or mainstream and even if its expression may offend.”
Appealing Eady’s decision, Kristie Higgs’ lawyers argued that sending her case back to the same employment tribunal which had already made serious errors risked her being denied justice once again.
Ruling that the appeal raises a series of “important questions”, Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing has now allowed the case to proceed on all grounds to the Court of Appeal.
Responding to the news yesterday, Higgs said: “Despite the many attempts by the school to suggest otherwise, this has always been about my Christian beliefs and me being discriminated against for expressing them in my own time.
“I was, and still am, appalled by the sexual ideology that was being introduced to my son’s Church of England primary school. What has happened since in schools with extreme RSE and transgender ideology shows that I was right to be concerned as a parent.
“I am very grateful to Justice Laing for allowing the case to proceed on all grounds; I now hope to receive full justice at the Court of Appeal.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “One anonymous complaint, a heckler’s veto, was enough to see Kristie branded a Nazi and lose the job she loved.
Religion and belief
“Kristie was punished in 2019 due to the climate of fear and intolerance created in our education system by Stonewall and other LGBT activist groups.
“Since her sacking, RSE and transgender ideology in our schools has been exposed as deeply harmful. The prime minister has ordered an urgent review into the extreme and sexualised RSE materials and teaching being imposed upon children. The government has now also released transgender guidance which states clearly that religious beliefs of concerned parents, like Kristie, must be respected.
“The previous judgment that upheld her sacking could not stand. In what should have been a cut-and-dried case of discrimination, however, it has been unnerving to encounter the series of obstacles blocking Kristie securing justice.
“[Books] that promote extreme gender identity ideology, harm and confusion have no place in a Church of England or indeed any school in the UK.
“We now press on in this important case. For Kristie’s case to be heard at the Court of Appeal is a huge moment for Christian freedoms and the freedom of any employee to be able to express opposition to LGBT+ ideology without fear of losing their jobs.”