Cambridgeshire pastor who quit school job says 'Pride harms children' tweet was done 'out of love'

Keith Waters is claiming direct and indirect discrimination plus constructive dismissal against the school Credit: Christian Concern

A pastor and school caretaker who claimed that Pride events were "harmful to children" has told an employment tribunal that his comments were born "out of love".

Pastor Keith Waters, 55, claims he was forced out of his caretaker job at the Isle of Ely Primary School in Cambridgeshire after the comment in a June 2019 tweet triggered a backlash.

That included harassment and abuse against him, his family and his church, he said, along with an internal investigation at the school.

Mr Waters, of Ely, Cambridgeshire, is claiming direct and indirect discrimination plus constructive dismissal.

He told the tribunal he did not consider the implications of his tweet and he did not feel he had brought the school into disrepute.

"Did I particularly think about the implications of this tweet? I didn't," he said.

Mr Waters views were described as "extremist", "abhorrent" and as a "disgusting outburst on a very public platform" in the complaints made by parents at the school.

Mr Waters claimed his tweet was not intended to be offensive but to warn Christians about LGBTQ Pride events as they may involve nudity, people in sadomasochistic outfits and displays of an overtly sexual nature.

The school's trust said it received "very serious" concerns about him.

Mr Waters told the hearing: "I talked about events and the things that can happen and the things that are reported to happen at these events."

Mr Waters, who has been a church minister for 10 to 15 years and posting "the same kinds of things out on Twitter" since 2012, said: "There will be things I have put on Twitter that others will fervently disagree with.

"My Twitter account makes it clear, as well as the individual tweets, that I am aiming this at Christians.

He added: "I did not consider the implications because I had made no change to what I did or why I was doing it or the love that was actually behind it because the reason for the tweet was born out of love."

He said: "The school was aware of who I am."

Mr Waters worked part-time as a caretaker at the school from January 2017 and resigned in June 2019, just weeks after posting the now-deleted tweet.

The tweet, which coincided with the first Cambridge Pride festival, said: "A reminder that Christians should not support or attend the LGBTQ 'pride month' events in June.

"They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children."

The tweet attracted attention from the local press and on social media along with complaints from "concerned" parents that were made to the school, the tribunal heard.

Stephen Peacock, representing the Active Learning Trust, said the school had responded with an investigation after receiving "very serious" concerns about a member of staff.

Mr Waters said the school investigation appeared to be taking on board things that were said about him, and rather than sticking to what he posted "it was taking on board those things that I didn't say".

Mr Waters told the hearing: "People can say all sorts of things about all sorts of people but I can't be responsible for the things that people say about me."

The tribunal heard the complaints included allegations, which Mr Waters denies, of child molestation.

In his witness statement Mr Waters said he had endured "a campaign of harassment and abuse against me, my family, and my church" after the publicity surrounding his post.

He wrote: "At one point, funeral directors turned up at my house to arrange my funeral.

"On another occasion, I was visited by estate agents who had been asked to sell my house.

"In an unsuccessful attempt to calm the situation down, I deleted my tweet a couple of days after it was posted."

Mr Waters gave in his notice and attended a disciplinary hearing which resulted in a final written warning, which he unsuccessfully appealed against.

The hearing will resume on Tuesday.