Edinburgh city council has agreed to hand over more than $35,000 in damages to a Glasgow-based Christian ministry after cancelling a conference because the event’s speaker held to a Biblical view of sexuality.
Last summer, authorities cancelled Destiny Church’s three-day conference which was to be held in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall following complaints that the speaker, Larry Stockstill, a former pastor from Louisiana, refused to affirm LGBTQ ideology.
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson told Edinburgh Evening News that the event was cancelled due to “the keynote speaker’s publicly-stated views about same-sex relationships,” which the Council described as “offensive” and “discriminatory.”
In 2007, Mr Stockstill authored a book titled He Teaches My Hands to War, in which he said: “Don’t be deceived. Homosexuality is not normal behaviour and it is not accepted by God.”
The church group subsequently filed legal action arguing the council had violated their freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
“We asked the council to change its decision but it would not,” Destiny’s senior pastor Andrew Owen said.
“After speaking to a range of people in the Christian community, we decided that this serious infringement of religious liberty and freedom of expression had to be challenged in the courts,” Owen added.
Brent Haywood, litigation partner of law firm Lindsays, who acted for the ministry, said the right to freedom of expression and religion is at the heart of this case.
“The cancellation of its booking was an obvious act of discrimination under the Equality Act, and an equally clear breach of the Human Rights Act,” Mr Haywood said.
Mr Haywood sent a letter to Edinburgh Council prior to taking legal action, outlining how its decision to terminate the contract was unlawful. But the Council doubled down on their decision, publicly stating that it would “vigorously” defend itself in any litigation and that it would not allow its venues to be used as a platform for discrimination.
When faced with the full hearing of a lawsuit, however, the City of Edinburgh Council folded on their decision and apologized to the ministry, admitting they were wrong to cancel the event based on the beliefs of the keynote speaker.
According to a statement from ADF International, the Council acknowledged that it had “failed to meet its equalities duties to Destiny Ministries in terms of the Equality Acts 2010 and therefore acted unlawfully,” adding the facilities should be “available to those of any religion or none.”
The Council apologised for discriminating against the ministry and offered over $35,000 in damages.
Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK welcomed the Council’s decision, saying: “Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are foundations of every free and democratic society, and must be protected for all people.”