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London - A British Christian who was demoted by his employer over comments he made on Facebook opposing gay marriage in churches won a High Court case for breach of contract on Friday.
Judges in London found that Adrian Smith, who works for a local government social housing body, had not been guilty of any misconduct and awarded him token damages of less than £100 (about R1 400).
Smith, 55, lost his managerial status, had his salary cut by 40 percent and was handed a final written warning after posting on Facebook that gay weddings in churches were “an equality too far”.
Although the remarks were not visible to the public and were posted outside work time, Smith's Manchester-based employer, Trafford Housing Trust, said he had broken its code of conduct by voicing religious or political views that could upset his colleagues.
Judge Michael Briggs ruled that the trust had no right to demote Smith and had breached its contract with him, while the Facebook posts did not constitute misconduct.
The judge said Smith could have won far more in damages if he had launched proceedings for unfair dismissal at the employment tribunal.
“The breach of contract which the trust... committed was serious and repudiatory,” Briggs said.
Smith said in a statement after the ruling: “The judge exonerated me and made clear that my comments about marriage were in no way 'misconduct'.
“My award of damages has been limited to less than £100 - but that is for technical legal reasons.
“But I didn't do this for the money, I did this because there is an important principle at stake.
“Britain is a free country where people have freedom of speech, and I am pleased that the judge's ruling underlines that important principle.”
Matthew Gardiner, chief executive of Trafford Housing Trust, said in a statement that the trust - which still employs Smith -
accepted the court's decision and had apologised to him. - Sapa-AFP