Anyone who believes that Britain is still a free country should look at the case of Richard Page, a magistrate sacked for holding an opinion. That opinion, expressed when he was considering an application for adoption by a same-sex couple, was that a child does best with both a mother and father.
In 2016, Mr Page was removed from the judiciary by Michael Gove, then the Lord Chancellor, on grounds of “serious misconduct”. Page appealed against the decision; but last week Mr Justice Choudhury dismissed his case, saying he was not satisfied that Page had been a victim of discrimination. According to Justice Choudhury, it was not Mr Page’s Christian beliefs that were the problem, but the fact that he expressed them.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal also rejected a claim made by Mr Page against Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, which had prevented him from returning as a non-executive director because he had later expressed his views in public without the Trust’s permission.
Afterwards, Mr Page said he would appeal again. The rulings showed, he said, that “we are now living in a deeply intolerant society which cannot stand any dissent from politically correct views – even from judges”.
Mr Page is openly a Christian and much has been made of his faith in news reports about his case, with the suggestion that his views on gay adoption and marriage were held dogmatically and solely because he was a Christian. It was, they hinted, a case of faith versus reason.
Yet, as Pope St John Paul II wrote in Fides et Ratio, “the Church remains profoundly convinced that faith and reason mutually support each other; each influences the other as they offer to each other a purifying critique and a stimulus to pursue the search for deeper understanding”.
In other words, Christians believe in things they hold to be true, informed both by their faith and what they can learn from life, including empirically.
So how might science inform belief about different types of family structure and how they might benefit or harm children?
According to the sociologist Dr Patricia Morgan, there is now a “massive body of evidence suggesting that children who grow up with both original parents tend, on the whole, to be better off than children living with single parents and in step-families, in terms of all or most outcomes”.
Dr Morgan has added that “Compared to being reared by single or cohabiting parents, relatives, foster parents or in institutions, children born or adopted and raised in an intact marriage are more apt to avoid legal and psychiatric trouble, become well educated, be gainfully employed, and in turn get and stay married and raise the next generation.”
Her next point is also significant: she observes that, when same-sex adoption was legalised in the UK by the Adoption and Children Act 2002, there was barely a shred of reliable data available to compare same-sex families with such conjugal families.
Similarly, same-sex marriage was introduced a decade later on the basis that it would bolster marriage, without any supporting evidence whatsoever.
Theresa May, then home secretary, declared that same-sex couples “will be missionaries to the wider society and make it [marriage] stronger”; yet the only reliable study presented to the House of Commons suggested the opposite: that the numbers of heterosexual marriages entered an often precipitous downward acceleration in those countries that had already changed the law.
Surely any radical social and moral changes must come with a burden of proof on the reformers. And the defenders of the established practice should enjoy the liberty to make alternative cases with impunity.
So in the case of Mr Page, it is not his religious dogma, or reasoning, that was the problem, but rather the dogmatic intolerance of those promoting new ideologies.
The sacking and silencing of those who express views divergent from the new orthodoxies is reprehensible in a country which claims to be free.