UK

Christian Magistrate Richard Page Sacked After Opposing Gay Adoption During BBC Debate

11/03/2016 10:03 GMT | Updated 11/03/2016 10:59 GMT

A Christian magistrate who has been sacked after opposing adoption by gay parents during a BBC interview has labelled the decision "intolerant" and is challenging it.

Richard Page, who has sat on the Central Kent bench for 15 years and only had a month to run as a Justice of the Peace, was struck off for his “biased and prejudiced” views expressed during an interview on 12 March 2015.

During an interview with BBC news reporter Caroline Wyatt, Page said: "My responsibility as a magistrate, as I saw it, was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and woman who were the adopted parents."

The former magistrate, according to the Christian Centre, was being interviewed as part of a TV debate about Christians being squeezed out of public life and followed research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission about challenges to freedom of religion and belief in the UK.

richard page

Christian magistrate Richard Page has been sacked for opposing adoption by gay parents during a BBC interview

A spokesperson for the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office told the Evening Standard that Page's comments "would have caused a reasonable person to conclude he was biased and prejudiced against single sex adopters".

Page was previously reprimanded in 2014 and sent for retraining after saying during an adoption hearing that it would be better for a child to be raised by a mother and father instead of a same-sex couple.

At that time, Page was found guilty of serious misconduct and was sent for retraining. Authorities concluded Page had “allowed himself to be influenced by his religious beliefs and not by the evidence" during a family court hearing.

Page has spoken out against the latest decision, labelling it "intolerant", and accused Lord Chancellor Michael Gove of pandering to "the new political orthodoxy when what it amounts to is social experimentation on the lives of the most vulnerable children in our communities".

He believes the government's move to place children with same-sex couples lacks any solid, reliable psychological or educational research concerning the effects on children.

Page, who has worked in the field of mental health for 20 years, told the Christian Centre: "As a highly experienced magistrate, I have made judgments on thousands of cases and in each case, have come to my decision based on the evidence, and the evidence alone, placed before me and my colleagues. That is the oath which I took when I became a Justice of the Peace.

"When you sit in a Family Court, you have a huge responsibility to ensure the overall well-being of the children who are being recommended to be placed into new families.

"You weigh the reports and references before you and the evidence you hear. In the case of same-sex couples adopting children, it has only been a relatively short time that same-sex couples have been able to adopt and foster and therefore, there has not been time for a proper analysis to be carried out into the effects such placements have on the children's educational, emotional and developmental wellbeing."

Page continued: "As a magistrate, I have to act on the evidence before me and quite simply, I believe that there is not sufficient evidence to convince me that placing a child in the care of a same-sex couple can be as holistically beneficial to a child as placing them with a mum and dad as God and nature intended."

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Page said his punishment was an attempt to "silence me" and said he would challenge the decision as it was "illiberal and intolerant". The Christian Legal Centre and its counsel, human rights barrister Paul Diamond, are backing his appeal.

"It is vital the family law courts always have in mind the best interests of the children," Page said.

"I cannot believe that the establishment is trying to silence someone like me who has served it wholeheartedly all of my working life."

Commenting on the case, the Christian Legal Centre's chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said Page's sacking "unmasks the face of the new political orthodoxy; it is unkind".

Minichiello said: "It tries to silence opposing views and if it fails it crushes and punishes the person who holds those views.

"To remove someone like Richard from the bench is modern day madness. He has a lifetime of public service, expertise in mental health. He is motivated by his Christian faith and a deep compassion for people."