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Fighting ‘Polite Persecution’: Chaplain Fired and Labeled a ‘Terrorist’ After Sermon

July 5, 2022

“Cast your minds forward a few years. How many years before a Christian minister who says that the members of the congregation he’s speaking to may accept traditional Christian teachings — on marriage, orientation and gender identity — is reported under a government anti-terrorism program? How long is that going to take?” The Reverend Dr. Bernard Randall posed the hypothetical to the room. “Maybe I’m going to say my answer is three years.”

“Three years ago,” he continued, “that’s what happened to me.”

Last week at the annual International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., The Heritage Foundation hosted a panel titled, “Victims of ‘Polite’ Persecution: Believers Targeted By Secular Abortion and Gender Activists.” One of the panelists was Reverend Dr. Bernard Randall, an ordained bishop of the Church of England and a former chaplain at a Christian K-12 school in Cambridge, who took to the podium to share his experience of being on the receiving end of religious discrimination.

In 2018, during Randall’s tenure as chaplain at the Church of England school, the school leadership hosted a seminar with the stated purpose of combatting LGBT bullying, in which the staff was lead in a chant to “smash heteronormativity.” The school immediately began implementing the anti-bullying program, and Randall was asked to respond in chapel to the question, “How come we’re told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?”

“‘Have to accept?’ And that sets off alarm bells in the mind of anyone who believes in freedom,” Randall said.

Sensing that there was perhaps more motive to indoctrinate a radical ideology than simply to promote respectful tolerance of opposing viewpoints, Randall shared in a chapel sermon in which he said that it was okay for students to believe that biological sex is unchangeable, marriage is between a man and a woman, and that gender identity language was incoherent, if they came to such conclusions. “Most of all,” he summarized, “respect the people you disagree with, because loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t mean you have to agree. But it does mean you respect their sincerity.”

Despite hopes to present a moderate perspective and encourage respect across the aisle, Randall was summoned by school leadership, interrogated, and fired from his chaplain position for “gross misconduct.” The school then reported him to Child Protective Services and the British Government Anti-Terrorism Prevent Program as a potential violent extremist or instigator of violent extremism.

“Now, I’d like to think I’m a reasonably moderate sort of chap,” Randall explained that he had never set out to be a provocateur or even take a strongly controversial stance. This series of events, however, pushed him to his tipping point. Now, Randall is represented by Christian Concern, a U.K.-based evangelical advocacy group, as he sues the Christian school where he once was chaplain.

Randall believes it is important to fight against the religious discrimination he experienced as a professing Christian working at a Christian school. “As someone who’s ordained, I stood up in front of the congregation with the bishop and said, ‘I will proclaim the truth in Christ Jesus. That’s my job.’ So, other people want to be anonymous? That’s fine. But my job, my calling, is to speak out.”

Some people have told him not to make a big deal of the altercation with school leadership, but Randall believes the discrimination is a form of persecution worth attacking boldly. “I think it is, in a sense, polite persecution. I haven’t been tortured or thrown in prison. I have my fingernails. I have a few extra gray hairs. But the thing is, it’s going beyond nondiscrimination into pushing a particular set of ideas.”

Why does Randall’s case matter? “My story sends a message to other Christians that you are not free to talk about your faith. It seems it is no longer enough to just ‘tolerate’ LGBT ideology. You must accept it without question and no debate is allowed without serious consequences,” he commented to Christian Concern. “Someone else will decide what is and what isn’t acceptable, and suddenly you can become an outcast, possibly for the rest of your life.”

From a global persepective, he insisted that it is important to defend religious freedom in Western countries because they lose their credibility to point fingers when other countries allow for discrimination and persecution.

“It’s not just religious freedom to practice how you like,” Randall maintains. “Religious freedom also means freedom from religion. And it seems to me that the way progressive Marxist ideology functions is as a religion, and people should be free from that if they wish to [be].”

Marjorie Jackson is a reporter for The Washington Stand and FRC's Digital Media Specialist.