City pays $35,000 for canceling Christian conference

City officials in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, have agreed to pay about $35,000 damages to Destiny Ministries for a decision that canceled the church group’s three-day conference.

The events were to be held last summer in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, but weren’t because of a complaint that concerned a scheduled speaker, Larry Stockstill.

The Louisiana-based preacher has a record of affirming the biblical perspective on marriage and sexuality, and that, the city council said at the time, was reason enough to cancel the conference.

But now the city has admitted that it did not take into account the church’s rights under the nation’s own human rights and equality legislation.

A report from the BBC reveals Andrew Owen, of Destiny Ministries, explained, “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.”

He explained the church asked the council to change the decision but it refused.

“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,” he said. “We are sad that the case needed to be pursued in the first place but we are pleased that the council has now apologized 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 claimed it now is “fully committed” to equality and diversity.

The Christian Institute talked with Brent Haywood, the litigation partner at the law firm that supported the case.

“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 organizations throughout the UK?” he said.

“Which is why this was ‘a really, really important case’ to take on,” he said.

Ciarán Kelly, the institute’s deputy director, said, “This was a clear case of unlawful religious discrimination and denial of free speech and it’s helpful that in the end the council recognized its actions were wrong.”

The same issue also is present in another pending case, an action by the Stirling Free Church against The Robertson Trust, after the rich organization canceled the church’s venue booking over its beliefs about marriage.

Premier Christian News said Stockstill had previously stated, “The average person today has no concern for the gross immorality and debauchery existing in our society. Such an individual thinks homosexuality is ‘gay’, abortion is ‘necessary’ and drunkenness and adultery are ‘acceptable’. For God’s saints, however, these things should be repulsive and deeply grievous.”

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