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Edinburgh Council says sorry and pays £25,000 damages for cancelling church conference

July 2021 | by Evangelical Times

Andrew Owen welcomed the decision CREDIT: Destiny Ministries
see image info

Edinburgh Council has apologised and paid £25,000 in damages for cancelling a three-day Christian conference.

The council cancelled the event because it didn’t like the religious beliefs of one of the speakers.

But the council now accepts it did not properly take into account laws that protect freedom of speech and religious liberty.

The conference was due to be held in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall last summer, but the council received a complaint about views held by guest speaker Larry Stockstill.

The Louisiana-based preacher had made previous comments on marriage and sexuality that were based on the Bible.

The organisers of the conference, Destiny Ministries, welcomed the council’s apology for cancelling the event.

Andrew Owen, of Destiny Ministries, said, ‘We hired the Usher Hall in 2020 to run our Surge Conference but the council mistakenly decided to cancel our booking for reasons that related directly to our religion and belief.

‘We were shocked by this. We asked the council to change its decision, but it would not.

‘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.

‘We are sad that the case needed to be pursued in the first place, but we are pleased that the council has now apologised and acknowledged that it acted unlawfully under the Human Rights Act, and that by cancelling our booking it also discriminated against us in terms of the Equality Act.’

A spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh Council, ‘As a council, we are fully committed to promoting equality and diversity, and are keen to increase respect, tolerance, and understanding.

‘We accept that, in terminating Destiny Ministries’ hire of the Usher Hall due to the published religious beliefs of one of their keynote speakers, we did not properly take into account their rights in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Equality Act 2010.’

Brent Haywood, Litigation Partner at Lindsays law firm, which supported the case, said the case needed to be fought.

He said, ‘If Destiny could be cancelled from using a public space hired out by Edinburgh council, then what was to stop the same thing happening to other Christian organisations throughout the UK?’

He added that Destiny felt the weight of the rest of the Christian community in the UK on its shoulders, ‘because so many Christian organisations need to hire space’, which is why this was ‘a really, really important case’ to take on.

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