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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions >> Ngole, R (on the application of) v The University of Sheffield  EWCA Civ 1127 (03 July 2019)
Cite as:  EWCA Civ 1127,  ELR 443
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ON APPEAL FROM THE QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Rowena Collins Rice (Sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge)
Insert Lower Court NC Number Here
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE HADDON-CAVE
SIR JACK BEATSON
| THE QUEEN (on the application of NGOLE)
|- and -
|THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD
Sarah Hannett (instructed by Pinsent Masons LLP) for the Respondent
Hearing dates: 12-13 March 2019
Crown Copyright ©
Summary of conclusions
(1) The University adopted a position from the outset of the disciplinary proceedings which was untenable: namely, that any expression of disapproval of same-sex relations (however mildly expressed) on a public social media or other platform which could be traced back to the person making it, was a breach of the professional guidelines. The University's stance was not, however, in accordance with the relevant HCPC professional code and guidelines.
(2) The HCPC professional code and guidelines did not prohibit the use of social media to share personal views and opinions, but simply said that the University might have to take action "if the comments posted were offensive, for example if they were racist or sexually explicit".
(3) The Appellant immediately reacted (to what he saw as an unwarranted blanket ban by the University on him expressing his religious views in any public forum) by himself adopting a position which was equally untenable: namely, that the University had no business in interfering with his freedom of expression and it was his right to express his religious views and he would continue to do so just as before, whatever the disciplinary consequences. The Appellant's reaction, whilst perhaps understandable, was also not in accordance with the relevant HCPC professional code and guidelines.
(4) The right to freedom of expression is not an unqualified right: professional bodies and organisations are entitled to place reasonable and proportionate restrictions on those subject to their professional codes; and, just because a belief is said to be a religious belief, does not give a person subject to professional regulation the right to express such beliefs in any way he or she sees fit.
(5) It will be apparent, therefore, that both sides adopted extreme and polarised positions from the outset, which meant that the disciplinary proceedings got off on the wrong track.
(6) At no stage, did the University make it clear to the Appellant that it was the manner and language in which he had expressed his views that was the real problem, and in particular that his use of Biblical terms such as 'wicked' and 'abomination' was liable to be understood by many users of social services as extreme and offensive. Further, at no stage did the University discuss or give the Appellant any guidance as to how he might more appropriately express his religious views in a public forum, or make it clear that his theological views about homosexuality were no bar to his practising as a social worker, provided those views did not affect his work or mean he would or could discriminate.
(7) The University quickly formed the view that the Appellant had become "extremely entrenched" and that he lacked "insight" into the effect that his actions in posting his views on social media would have. This led the University rapidly to conclude that a mere warning was insufficient and that the Appellant's fitness to practice was irredeemably impaired and, therefore, only the extreme sanction of suspension from his course was appropriate.
(8) The University failed to appreciate two matters. First, failing to appreciate that the Appellant's apparent intransigence was an understandable reaction by a student to being told something that he found incomprehensible, namely that he could never express his deeply held religious views in any manner on any public forum. Second, failing to appreciate that a blanket ban on the expression of views was not in accordance with the relevant HCPC professional code or guidance. In these senses, it was the University and its processes which could be said to lack insight.
(9) It was, in fact, the University itself which became entrenched. First, by failing even to explore the possibility of finding middle ground, despite this being suggested by Pastor Omooba, who accompanied the Appellant at the disciplinary proceedings. Second, by unfairly putting the onus entirely upon the Appellant to demonstrate that he did have "insight" and could mend his ways.
(10) The University wrongly confused the expression of religious views with the notion of discrimination. The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that 'homosexuality is a sin') does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds. In the present case, there was positive evidence to suggest that the Appellant had never discriminated on such grounds in the past and was not likely to do so in the future (because, as he explained, the Bible prohibited him from discriminating against anybody).
(11) The University gave different and confusing reasons for suspending the Appellant. Initially, it was said (by the Fitness to Practice Committee) that he lacked "insight" into how his NBC postings might affect his ability to carry out "his role as a social worker"; and subsequently it was said (by the Appeals Committee) that he lacked "insight" into how his NBC postings "may negatively affect the public's view of the social work profession". Further, at no stage during the process or the hearings did the University properly put either concern as to perception to the Appellant during the hearings.
(12) The University's approach to sanction was, in any event, disproportionate: instead of exploring and imposing a lesser penalty, such as a warning, the University imposed the extreme penalty of dismissing the Appellant from his course, which was inappropriate in all the circumstances.
"14. My conduct will reflect the standards expected of me, both as a student at the University of Sheffield and a prospective member of the social work profession and I will be mindful of the fact that my conduct outside the programme of study may compromise my entitlement to complete the programme or to register with the HCPC."
The Appellant's NBC postings
"… [S]ame sex marriage is a sin whether we accept it or not"
"…Homosexuality is a sin, no matter how you want to dress it up"
"…[Homosexuality] is a wicked act and God hates the act"
"…God hates sin and not man"
"…[O]ne day God will do away with all diseases and all suffering. He will also get rid of the devil who is the author of all wickedness. That day will surely come. But remember that He will also Judge all those who indulged in all forms of wicked acts such as homosexuality".
"…If a man lies with a male as with a woman both of them have committed an abomination. Leviticus 18:22"
"…Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and p[u]rsued sexual desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1."
"…For this reason God gave them to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another; men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error: Romans 1:26-28."
Initial interview on 11 November 2015
"The issue is working in a Professional Practice. There may be a family who are gay and see your social media posting, they could be problematic for you. I am not saying not to hold your beliefs, but this is about regulations to behave in a certain way. The comments are incongruous with values of the Social Work profession. This is about personal conduct. I appreciate you are a devout Christian. Professional conduct on social media website[s] is a different situation."
"I'm not asking for this to happen. But according to the comments that you have made you are in breach of the HCPC regulations as they pertain to social media and the HCPC code of conduct as they pertain to professional and personal conduct. HCPC through The University mean that this has to be looked into formally, to ascertain whether or not there has been a breach of regulations."
"We have to look at the conduct guidance within the HCPC. You have not tried to hide anything and thank you for your honesty and integrity. I don't think you would behave in a discriminatory way, however, you could inadvertently discriminate. The person on the receiving end of your comments could be discriminated [sic]. This is very complicated. I wish to give you every opportunity to stay on this course. I need to think about this and speak to [Jane Laing], to seek higher authority on the matter."
|Details of concerns
(eg placement/ social media/ pattern of lack of professional behaviour/ health condition etc.)
|Social media postings that indicate views of a discriminatory nature. These views are in breach of the HCPC Code of Conduct and the HCPC regulations as they apply to social media
(The notes to the form stated that it should be placed in a prominent position in in the student's file and that it could be used as "…as the starting point for an initial meeting with a student where there are concerns about Fitness to Practice".)
Referral to the FTP Committee
"Unfortunately I respectfully decline to attend the meeting. I would, however, appreciate if you could consider the following during the meeting:
1. That I was invited on the Facebook page to share my views on what the Bible says about homosexuality.
2. That every single word I used was from the Bible and 'not just my views' on the issue as it had been suggested.
3. That when called upon to give my views on an issue, I should be truthful at all times especially as a student social worker. It would be unethical to do otherwise.
4. That I never advocated any hate directly or indirectly towards people who are in same sex relationships. The Bible doesn't allow me to do so.
5. I never stated that people in same sex relationships should be treated differently or that they should be treated different from anyone else. The Bible never allows me to do so.
6. The only assumption made by the chair and investigating officer is that people from same sex relationship will not feel comfortable to approach me because of my views on homosexuality. However, I merely stated what the Bible says in the topic after I was asked to do so.
7. It was decided during the meeting that the third evidence [regarding a separate discussion on topics other than homosexuality] sent to me be ignored. I haven't received an apology for the stress I was put under. I believe this is grossly unfair. To me it highlights the issue of power and how those who are less powerful are treated in our profession and society.
8. The meeting should consider my rights as a Christian, especially my rights to be able to share my Christian views when called upon to do so, without any fear of recrimination or reprisals.
9. Also consider the impact your decision will have on religious freedom.
10. The fact that the only person who was offended about my response is a student social worker who was my friend on Facebook.
11. I currently work with young people who have family members in same sex relationships. I have always been very supportive towards them at all times. Although this also includes truthfully representing the views of God whenever I am called upon to do so.
I thank you for your time and I strongly believe that God will be glorified in any decision you take on the day of the hearing. I know He will be always be my advocate in this matter."
FTP Committee hearing on 26 January 2016
"The Committee has decided: to exclude the student from further study on a programme leading to a professional qualification but permit registration for an alternative programme."
FTP Committee decision letter
"35. The FFTPC noted the fact that Mr Ngole was familiar with posting views to public web spaces, such as Facebook, and understood the implications of sharing information via Facebook which could be perceived as expressing views which, albeit based on his religious beliefs, were discriminatory toward single sex couples.
36. In balancing its decision the FFTPC also took account of the fact that Mr Ngole was in his 2nd year of his MA, and had not previously been subject of any cause for concern. It also took account of the fact that Mr Ngole's comments were an expression of his religious beliefs and his assurance that (despite his clear statement of his right to continue to express his beliefs) he had not and would not discriminate against service users on the basis of sexual preference or relationship status.
37. However, after careful deliberation the panel felt that Mr Ngole's poor judgment in posting comments regarding his beliefs about homosexuality and single sex marriage, whilst an expression of his beliefs, called into question Mr Ngole's ability to meet two requirements of the HCPC guidelines: (i) You should keep high standards of personal conduct and (ii) You should make sure that your behaviour does not damage public confidence in your profession."
Appeal to University Senate
"In particular, I have been excluded for the expression of my Christian views in a discussion about homosexuality on Facebook.
This penalty of ending my professional career is manifestly unreasonable, I could have been issued with a warning about the use of Facebook or informed which Christian viewpoints the University approves of.
On the contrary, it is me who has been discriminated against because I am a Christian.
1. The complaint against me was made in bad faith, by a person who is known to have hostility to Christian views; and the University are acting upon her discriminatory intent. Shame on you. You have adopted her prejudice against me; and are also preventing me from asking her questions to find out her motives. She should defend her position; and I formally seek permission to question her. Furthermore, I have never been provided with a copy of her complaint.
2. I have been removed from the course for the expression of the Orthodox Christian viewpoint on sexual ethics and the fact that homosexuality is a sin in the Bible. This is a direct violation of my rights of freedom of speech and of freedom of religion: both are protected under the European Convention on Human Rights.
3. The expression of my free speech on a subject of public controversy is lawful; expressing my views cannot result in such a punishment: otherwise there is no free speech, except what the University approves of (acting on the malice of a complaining student). My comments on Facebook are a social forum in my personal and private sphere.
4. At the University many students have extremely left wing and right wing views; and have many views on personal sexual morality. What are your monitoring processes with such students?
5. I have not discriminated against anyone (the evidence is to the contrary – but you have chosen to disregard this) so I am being punished for my views, despite the fact that they have no impact on my work and professional abilities.
6. As Mr David Bosworth (Investigator) said on 11th November: "I don't think you behave in a discriminatory way, however you could inadvertently discriminate". So anyone with the wrong attitude could inadvertently discriminate: the whole world could.
7. The decision is partly based on a hypothetical situation. There has been no discrimination against homosexual people and the position that "this (my views) may have caused offence to some individuals" (my emphasis added) (letter of 3rd February) is untested and unproved.
8. I am a hard working student, honest, kind, decent who does not believe in discrimination, now facing a life-changing detriment due to my Christian views.
9. I informed the faculty that Jesus is against discrimination and that I would not discriminate against homosexual people. This is a direct attack on freedom of religion and I believe it is animus to Christianity solely by University staff.
10. This application of correct views as complying with the HCPC Requirements means that 'no Christian' can do the course, or if they do, they cannot express freely their religious views on sexual sin (or must renounce them).
11. I have a religious right to express my views on sexual ethics; and it is wrong to threaten me to surrender my beliefs as a condition of staying on the course. This is like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany."
I require you to express the University's position on whether a Muslim Student who believes in Shari'a law (in relation to the status of women and attitudes to homosexuality) is fit to qualify in Social Work when the student expresses his/her views in moderate terms in a religious discussion on the internet." (emphasis added)
Appeals Committee hearing on 28 March 2016
"[David Bosworth] states that every option was given in the dept for the matter to be resolved at dept level and allow [Felix Ngole] to continue with his studies but [Felix Ngole]'s position became entrenched very quickly. [David Bosworth] felt unable to simply issue [Felix Ngole] with a warning…
[Professor Callaghan] steps in, questions for clarification only at this stage please."
"[David Bosworth] wanted to issue a warning and allow for a period of reflection but felt no choice but to refer to [FTP Committee], because [Felix Ngole] not addressing professional behaviour concerns, HCPC guidance dictates this approach."
"[Pastor Omooba] - refers to guidance which also protects religious beliefs etc but knows that caution and diplomacy is needed in what is posted and it is fair to ask people to act in this way but not to denounce their religious faith."
"[Pastor Omooba] – states about caution and diplomacy – important.
[Felix Ngole] agrees and feels this was not offered to him – i.e. he believes he was told not to post on Facebook – this he feels is wrong
([Stephanie Betts] note – it is wrong to be told not to post on Facebook).
[[Pastor Omooba] – are you suggesting that the postings are homophobic – but they are just quotes from the scriptures."
"[David Bosworth] HCPC expect their values to be upheld, service users may read posts without context, service users may be vulnerable. Hoped that FN would want to reflect on postings. Important to pay attention to what you post.
[Felix Ngole] felt he had been put in a position where he needed to choose between his religious beliefs and programmes. Felt approach was wrong and oppressive."
"Committee Discussion/ Decision
Confirm postings public not private
Notes escalated very quickly, first offence, no previous problems.
Notes HCPC guidance on social media vague and that it is not overly helpful.
Largely quotes from the Bible, though not exclusively, interpreting what the Bible says and 'this is what I think'.
Demonstrates lack of insight and poor judgment, e.g. 'not his views but what it says in the Bible' – this is not correct based on some of the posts.
Needs to be aware of the impact of what he says – he is not and does not appear to want to reflect and engage with the idea (appears completely opposed).
Postings and views – effect public and client confidence in social work.
Failing to reflect on actions or any willingness to want to reflect. …"
"The Committee decided that the decision of the Faculty of Social Sciences FTP Committee was not manifestly unreasonable and therefore the decision that the student be excluded from further study on a programme leading to a professional qualification but permitted to register for an alternative programme should stand."
The Appeals Committee therefore upheld the FTP Committee, both on its concerns in relation to the Appellant's NBC postings, as well as the need for the serious sanction of exclusion.
"24. Professor Marsh gave details of the decision of the FFTPC. Professor Marsh went on to explain that during the initial hearing the FFTPC had wanted reassurance from Mr Ngole that he understood and would reflect on why the fitness to practise concerns had been raised. In particular, the FFTPC was seeking an indication from Mr Ngole that he had shown insight and reflection about his use of social media in this case and would be more mindful of the potential impact of any posts on public confidence in his profession in the future, however Mr Ngole had instead presented an extremely entrenched position and gave the FFTPC serious concerns that his fitness to practise was impaired.
25. Professor Marsh explained that the issue for the FFTPC was not questioning Mr Ngole's holding of his religious beliefs or his right to express his beliefs but his failure to reflect on how the postings could be considered in the context of the HCPC Guidance on Conduct and his failure to show insight into how his conduct could impact on service users and their confidence in the social work profession. The FFTPC were concerned that Mr Ngole had not and did not appear able to reflect on how his use of social media could affect the confidence of vulnerable service users who were in single sex relationships or the wider public in the social work profession."
Appeals Committee's decision letter
"14. I also made a point that it was wrong and unhelpful for the panel to require Felix to denounce his Christian beliefs; it would be much better to try and find a mutually acceptable solution. If the University simply wanted Felix to be more discreet in his social media postings, he would be happy to comply with any such guidelines (however none were offered).
15. …The University was insisting that Felix cannot express his Christian beliefs on homosexuality in any forum except a private setting. In my view Felix was not 'entrenched'; and was seeking to respond to the concerns of the University without compromising his faith. Unfortunately, all our efforts to find some middle ground with the University fell on deaf ears."
Complaint to Office of Independent Adjudicator
31. …We are satisfied, however, that it was not Mr Ngole's religious beliefs or even the general expression of those beliefs that was at issue. Rather, it was the manner in which he had expressed his beliefs on a publicly-accessible social media site, and his level of insight into the consequences of doing so on public trust in the profession, which was of concern to the University. We are satisfied that it was reasonable for the University to say that the posts amounted not just to Mr Ngole quoting passages from the Bible, but also to him expressing his own personal views, for instance saying that "homosexuality is a sin, no matter how you want to dress it up…
32. Although Mr Ngole maintains otherwise, we are satisfied that the University had made clear in its communications to him that it was not his beliefs concerning homosexuality, but the manner in which he had posted his views on Facebook which gave rise to concerns about his fitness to practise. …
35. … In our view, the wording used by the [FTP Committee] did not accurately reflect the test it was applying, namely whether the posts were likely to affect the public's view of, or confidence in, the social work profession. We are satisfied, however, that this was rectified by the Appeals Committee…
37. We are satisfied that the University gave sufficient explanation to Mr Ngole as to its concerns [about how the posts were likely to undermine the trust of a reasonable member of the public]. …[T]he University had highlighted to Mr Ngole that service users might read the posts without understanding the context or might be vulnerable and be affected by the comments that Mr Ngole had made – which related to public confidence and trust in the profession.
42. … Given Mr Ngole's statements about putting forward his views in the same way in the future, and given the Committee's conclusions about the level of insight he had demonstrated, we are satisfied that it was reasonable for the Committee not to have imposed a lesser sanction."
The Regulatory Framework
Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 ("HSWPO")
"3(2) The principal function of the Council shall be to establish from time to time standards of education, training, conduct and performance from members of the relevant professions and to ensure the maintenance of those standards."
"3(4) The over-arching objective of the [HCPC] in exercising its functions is the protection of the public."
"3(4A) The pursuit by the Council of its over-arching objectives involves the pursuit of the following objectives –
(a) to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public;
(b) to promote and maintain public confidence in the professions regulated under this Order; and
(c) to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of those professions."
"3(5) In exercising the functions, the Council shall-
(a) have proper regard for-
(i) the interests of persons using or needing the service of registrants in the United Kingdom, and
(ii) any differing interests of different categories of registrants;"
"21(1) The Council shall-
(a) establish and keep under review the standards of conduct, performance and ethics expected of registrants and prospective registrants… and give them such guidance on these matters as it sees fit; and
(b) establish and keep under review effective arrangements to protect the public from persons whose fitness is impaired.
(2) The Council may also from time to time give guidance to registrants, employers and such other persons as it thinks appropriate in respect of standards for the education and training, supervision and performance of persons who provide services in connection with those provided by registrants."
HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics
(1) Establish the standards of proficiency necessary to be admitted to the different parts of the register being the standards it considers necessary for safe and effective practice under that part of the register; and
(2) Prescribe the requirements to be met as to the evidence of good health and good character in order to satisfy the Education and Training Committee that an applicant is capable of safe and effective practice under that part of the register.
HCPC's Guidance for Providers on Standards of Education (SET guidance)
"…to make sure that education providers play a role in identifying students who may not be fit to practise and help them to address any concerns about their conduct in relation to their profession. The process should focus on identifying and helping to address concerns, but should also allow an appropriate range of outcomes, including providing for an award which does not provide eligibility to apply to the Register."
HCPC's Guidance for Students
"Conduct Outside Your Programme
On your programme you have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge you need to become a professional in an environment which protects the public. You also have the opportunity to learn about the behaviour that the public expects from a registrant.
As a student studying to become a professional in a regulated profession, you have certain responsibilities. On your programme you will be expected to meet high standards of conduct and ethics.
You should be aware that in very serious circumstances, your conduct may affect your ability to:
– complete your programme;
– gain the final qualification;
or – register with us. …
When you apply to join our Register, we ask for information as part of a declaration that you have a 'good character'. …"
Guidance on conduct and ethics
1. You should always act in the best interests of your service users.
- You should treat everyone equally.
3. You should keep high standards of personal conduct
- You should be aware that conduct outside of your programme may affect whether or not you are allowed to complete your programme or register with us.
13. You should make sure that your behaviour does not damage public confidence in your profession
- You should be aware that your behaviour may affect the trust that the public has in your profession.
- You should not do anything which might affect the trust that the public has in your profession."
HCPC social media guidance
"Focus on standards – social networking sites
More and more people are using social networking sites or blogs to communicate with friends and family. Registrants, educators and individuals studying to join the professions we regulate sometimes contact us to ask our views on the use of these sites. We recognise that these sites are a useful way of communicating and sharing information with friends and colleagues. Information placed on social networking sites is in the public domain and can therefore be viewed by other people.
You may use social networking sites to share your views and opinions. Again, this is not something that we would normally be concerned about. However, we might need to take action if the comments posted were offensive, for example if they were racist or sexually explicit.
You should make sure that when you use these sites, your usage is consistent with the standards that we set. The relevant standards from the standards of conduct, performance and ethos are as follows.
- You must act in the best interests of service users.
- You must respect the confidentiality of service users.
- You must keep high standards of personal conduct.
- You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public confidence in you or your profession. …
You may use social networking sites to share your views and opinions. Again, this is not something that we would normally be concerned about. However, we might need to take action if the comments posted were offensive, for example if they were racists or sexually explicit.
Social networking sites are a part of many registrants' and students' everyday life. We do not have any concerns about you using these sites, so long as you do so within the standards that we set. …"
"You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public's trust and confidence in you and your profession. This means you need to think about who can see what you share. … Even on a completely personal account, your employer, colleagues or service users may be able to see your posts or personal information. It is best to assume that anything you post online will be visible to everyone."
It points out that social media activity which is unprofessional may put registration at risk.
"As a student social worker, you need to be aware that the MA Social Work is a programme of professional training and that you are expected to behave in a professional manner in the University, on placement and in your personal life (including use of social media).
PLEASE NOTE: comments made by students on social networking sites have in the past been the subject of disciplinary proceedings: comments would be judged against the University conduct expectations, Fitness to Practise regulations and relevant professional practice standards."
The Judge's Findings
The Article 10 issue [42-69]
Prescribed by law -
Legitimate aim -
"If a chain of events, starting with a student posting Bible verses on a news website and ending with him being removed from his course, is one for which the law does not provide him with a remedy, it is important to test hard why not." 
"how they could be accessed and read by people, service users included, who would perceive them as judgmental, incompatible with service ethos, or suggestive of discriminatory intent. … It was reasonable to be concerned about that perception. The language used was strong and the endorsement of the poster was clear. There was nothing on the face of the postings themselves to allay the concern." 
"the apparent refusal of the student to take an active interest in that concern about perception. He seemed either to deny the possibility of such a perception or to deny that it should be taken seriously. He also seemed to think that the fact that he was exercising his personal freedoms on a matter of religious speech meant that his behaviour was in effect none of the University's business." 
"Religious speech like the NBC postings can, as Mr Diamond said, "confuse the secular mind". That is something with which professional practitioners working with secular minds have a responsibility to deal… Perhaps there could have been ways to express public support for Kim Davis, complete with Biblical authorities, while leaving the audience in no doubt about the poster's caring professionalism." [176-177]
"Trainee professionals might be expected to show they could think that through for themselves; to work out the impression that might be given in the wider world; to take personal responsibility for it; to work through to a professional solution; and if in doubt to take a balanced and consultative approach.
As Mr Diamond said, religious speech has "multiple meanings": it is multi-layered. Its theological layer is not necessarily widely understood. Its moral layer is not always warmly received. Its cultural layer may provoke active hostility. Where it touches on issues of same-sex sexuality, it may be radically rejected or cause hurt and harm, even if that is the last thing intended. Social workers have to deal with how people will actually react to it in real life, and express themselves accordingly. That is not about a "blanket ban", or about stifling religious speech or about denouncing faith; it is about seeing the world as others see it, and making the connection between what you say and the provision of public services in sensitive and diverse circumstances. Trainee social workers have to satisfy their supervisors that they understand this, and are if necessary working hard at it. That requires a reflective and proactive response to concerns being raised (the development of "autonomous and reflective thinking" is an HCPC SET expectation for courses of this sort). A reactive and defensive response is likely only to amplify those concerns. It was reasonable to expect a student whose career was at stake to have gone further to show that he understood the questions and had some reassuring answers." [177-178]
"He was in a position where he himself had to show he could, in his own way, reconcile the two. That is to a degree a personal matter. He could not simply expect others to do it for him. And if he could not in the end work out a solution that he could put into practice to everyone's satisfaction, including his own, then the result that came about was the right one." 
The Submissions on Appeal
Prescribed by law
Analysis and Conclusions
Clarity of Regulations and Guidance
Lack of 'insight' and entrenched positions
FTP Committee hearing
Appeals Committee hearing
The University's clarification
Proportionality of sanction imposed