Spectre of Stalin in our land

In recent weeks, two legal actions began in two different courts. The outcome of each will directly impact on Jewish communities throughout the UK.

The first - which has received much Jewish media coverage - concerns the case being brought by Ronnie Fraser against the University and College Union, of which both Ronnie and I are members. When, in 2011, the UCU adopted a resolution repudiating the "working definition" of antisemitism published by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism, there was a further, predictable exit of members (both Jewish and non-Jewish) from the union - further, that is, to previous exits occasioned by the UCU's ongoing infatuation with the Israel boycott brigade. Ronnie and I both stood our ground.

As I said at the time, "I have not the slightest intention of being forced out of my union by a bunch of anti-Jewish racists." Subsequently, I was honoured by becoming a guest professor at what is now Israel's newest university - Ariel. I told the UCU that if it took any action (by way of boycott, etc) against Ariel I would not hesitate, as a UK citizen, to commence legal proceedings against it. To date no action has been taken.

Ronnie has taken a much bolder step. He has taken the fight into the enemy's camp. Whatever the outcome of the case, we ought to applaud him for the courage he has displayed and continues to display in fighting racism and bigotry at the very heart of the British scholastic community.

Whatever the outcome of the case, we should applaud him

In Manchester, meanwhile, the County Court has been hearing a case that, on the face of it, is very different. But I believe that its outcome could equally affect the status and rights of Jews in this country.

The case has been brought by Adrian Smith, against the Trafford Housing Trust - his employer. Mr Smith is a practising Christian. On his Facebook page, he had the audacity to criticise plans for gay marriages in churches as "an equality too far." In a subsequent comment, he explained that "the Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women." The Trust commenced an internal disciplinary procedure against him.

Because he had described himself, on his private Facebook page, as a housing manager with the Trust, he was found guilty of gross misconduct and demoted. Unless this decision is overturned, he faces loss of earnings amounting to some £60,000 over the remainder of his working life.

In its defence, the Trust has alleged that his comments could have been taken to represent Trust policy. This strikes me as unmitigated nonsense. Why was he not simply asked to remove from his Facebook page any specific mention of the Trust? Instead, the Trust adopted a policy that can only be described as deliberately spiteful and intentionally malicious. Its objective was - in my view - to punish him after a lesbian colleague had described him as "blatantly homophobic".

I have had no contact with Mr Smith and whether or not he is "homophobic" - let alone "blatantly" so - I honestly do not know. In any case, being opposed to gay marriage is not "homophobic" in the slightest. (If you don't believe me, ask gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has actually come to Mr Smith's defence). As for his comment that "the Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women," - this is an entirely uncontroversial statement of the truth. Mr Smith exercised his right to freedom of expression and he told the truth. And that was why he was punished.

Christians in this Christian realm are under attack merely for expressing their religious beliefs in public. It sounds absurd, doesn't it? But we've had cases of Christians being disciplined for wearing crucifixes at work and for making comments of a Christian "character" in the workplace.

No one reading this should delude themselves into thinking that this campaign against freedom of religious expression will end with the Christians. It won't. Some day, somewhere in this green and pleasant land, some self-appointed campaigner for what I believe is termed "political correctness" will demand of the Jews what is now being demanded of Christian - that religious truths be suppressed and that those who articulate them be punished. What is this if not Stalinism pure and simple?

    Last updated: 10:45am, November 20 2012