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Tribunal decision in relation to the protection of anti-Zionist beliefs under the Equality Act

on Friday, 22 March 2024.

In a first instance decision delivered earlier this year, a Tribunal found that a professor's anti-Zionist beliefs were protected under the Equality Act.


In the case of Miller v University of Bristol, the claimant was a professor of political sociology at the university from September 2018 until his dismissal in October 2021. The claimant believes that political Zionism is "inherently racist, imperialistic and colonial", and that it ought to be opposed.

Complaints were made against the claimant during the course of his employment and he was dismissed for gross misconduct following a number of anti-Zionist comments he had made, including comments to a student newspaper and the Jewish Chronicle. The claimant brought Employment Tribunal claims including claims for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and direct discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief.

Protection for philosophical beliefs

Philosophical beliefs can be protected in law if they meet the "Grainger criteria", namely that:

  • The belief is genuinely held;
  • It is a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
  • It is a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

Tribunal decision

Whilst acknowledging the strength of feeling surrounding the claimant's beliefs, the Tribunal found that they were nevertheless protected in law. In respect of the requirement that the belief must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, the Tribunal noted that it was accepted between the parties that nothing the claimant said or did was antisemitic or in contravention of the Equality Act. Taking the Forstater decision into account, the Tribunal reminded itself that "very few beliefs" will not be worthy of respect in a democratic society. It noted that the claimant's beliefs do not extend to opposition to the idea that a Jewish state should exist, and that the claimant does not support violence as a means of opposing Zionism.

The Tribunal emphasised that it is not its place to assess the validity of beliefs such as those held by the claimant, but to assess them against the Grainger criteria. On this basis, the claimant's beliefs were protected.

The university has expressed its disappointment in the decision and has indicated that it is considering its position.

Learning points

This is a first instance decision so it is not binding on other Tribunals. It nevertheless demonstrates how the Grainger criteria are applied to polarising beliefs. It also serves as a reminder that difficult or unpopular beliefs can be protected in law.

For more information or advice, please contact Kris Robbets in our in our Higher Education team on 0117 314 5427, or complete the form below.