Christian magistrate removed from office by Lord Chancellor for speaking out about placing children in same-sex households
A Christian magistrate has been removed from office by the Lord Chancellor after sharing his personal conviction in a media interview that there is not enough evidence to show that placing children in the care of same-sex couples is in their best interest.
The media interview took place on 12 March 2015 with BBC news reporter Caroline Wyatt. In the interview Richard Page said: "My responsibility as a magistrate, as I saw it, was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and woman who were the adopted parents."
Richard Page, who for 15 years has been a magistrate and sat on the Family Panel of the Kent Central Magistrates Court, had less than a month to run as a Justice of the Peace. Yet the Lord Chancellor, Government Minister Michael Gove, has used this case to make a political statement.
It is somewhat ironic that the interview for which Mr Page has been dismissed occurred as part of a TV debate about Christians being squeezed out of public life. The BBC package followed research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission about challenges to freedom of religion and belief in the UK.
Mr Page was first challenged by his seniors in late 2014 when, after hearing an adoption case, he could not agree with his fellow magistrates that placing a child into the care of a same-sex couple was 'in the child's best interest'. Mr Page came to his decision having weighed the evidence presented to the Court and therefore, in good conscience, could not vote to make the order. He was subsequently reported for his actions, reprimanded, and forced to attend 're-education training', which he duly did.
In March 2015, Mr Page took part in a national television programme in which he clearly stated that at present, there was not sufficient evidence to convince him, as a magistrate, that placing a child in the care of a same-sex couple was in the child's best interests, and therefore he could not make such an order. Mr Page believes the political move by the government to place children with same-sex couples lacks any solid, reliable psychological or educational research concerning the effects on children.
Mr Page's media comments were again brought to the attention of his seniors and an investigation was carried out by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office's disciplinary panel. They recommended to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor that Mr Page should be removed from office.
Commenting on his sacking,Mr Page, aged 69, who has worked in the field of mental health for 20 years, said: "As a highly experienced magistrate, I have made judgments on thousands of cases and in each case, have come to my decision based on the evidence, and the evidence alone, placed before me and my colleagues. That is the oath which I took when I became a Justice of the Peace.
"When you sit in a Family Court, you have a huge responsibility to ensure the overall well-being of the children who are being recommended to be placed into new families. You weigh the reports and references before you and the evidence you hear. In the case of same-sex couples adopting children, it has only been a relatively short time that same-sex couples have been able to adopt and foster and therefore, there has not been time for a proper analysis to be carried out into the effects such placements have on the children's educational, emotional and developmental wellbeing.
"As a magistrate, I have to act on the evidence before me and quite simply, I believe that there is not sufficient evidence to convince me that placing a child in the care of a same-sex couple can be as holistically beneficial to a child as placing them with a mum and dad as God and nature intended.
"I am surprised that this Lord Chancellor should seemingly pander to the new political orthodoxy when what it amounts to is social experimentation on the lives of the most vulnerable children in our communities.
"To punish me and to seek to silence me for expressing a dissenting view is deeply worrying. I shall challenge this decision as it is deeply illiberal and intolerant. It is vital the family law courts always have in mind the best interests of the children.
"I cannot believe that the establishment are trying to silence someone like me who has served it wholeheartedly all of my working life.
Mr Page is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre and its Standing Counsel, human rights barrister Paul Diamond.
The Christian Legal Centre's chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams, commented: "The Lord Chancellor has removed Richard from the magistracy for allegedly being 'prejudiced' and for speaking out in the media about what has happened to him.
"This unmasks the face of the new political orthodoxy; it is unkind. It tries to silence opposing views and if it fails it crushes and punishes the person who holds those views.
"To remove someone like Richard from the bench is modern day madness. He has a lifetime of public service, expertise in mental health. He is motivated by his Christian faith and a deep compassion for people."