Christian CEO fired over views on marriage wins religious discrimination case

The Robertson House, headquarters for The Robertson Trust, a charitable grant-making organization founded in 1961 and based in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Robertson House, headquarters for The Robertson Trust, a charitable grant-making organization founded in 1961 and based in Glasgow, Scotland. | Courtesy The Robertson Trust

A court in Scotland has ruled in favor of a Christian CEO who they said was unjustly fired by the country’s biggest grant-making trust because of his Christian views on marriage.

Kenneth Ferguson was unlawfully discriminated against by The Robertson Trust and its Chairwoman Shonaig Macpherson for believing that marriage is exclusively between a man and woman, an Employment Tribunal has ruled. 

The Christian Institute, which supported Ferguson, announced the ruling in a statement on Friday. 

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Ferguson is an elder of Stirling Free Church, which holds traditional views on marriage and abortion.

The Christian CEO was dismissed from the Glasgow-based Trust last March after Macpherson objected to the church hiring the Barracks Conference Centre, a Trust property, for its Sunday services.

But the Trust reportedly cited “performance issues” as the reason for his firing.

“I was told by two members of my senior management team that Shonaig Macpherson went ‘ballistic’ and was almost unable to speak because she was so angry,” Ferguson said previously, according to The Herald.

“She kept asking why the Trust had rented to the Stirling Free Church. One colleague told me that Shonaig had said ‘definitely not the Free Church, anyone but the Free Church, they don’t believe in same-sex marriage.’ They said she was ‘incandescent with anger.’”

The Tribunal observed that Macpherson appeared to be “seeking to find reasons” to justify firing Ferguson prior to March 2020.

“The issue of the beliefs of the claimant and Church with which he was associated” had been on the mind of Macpherson throughout the whole procedure, the ruling said.

It added that Ferguson’s beliefs on marriage were protected and that it was “trite that it is lawful to hold such beliefs and to express them.”

“I’m just relieved this is over,” Ferguson was quoted as saying after the ruling. “It’s been a very difficult time for me and my family.”

He added, “I was treated by The Robertson Trust in a way I had never been treated before in my whole professional life. But I’m satisfied that justice has been done. The Tribunal has ruled that they were wrong to behave that way and I’m grateful.”

The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs Simon Calvert called the ruling “a welcome re-statement of the principle, upheld again and again in the courts, that the Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman is a belief protected by equality law and worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

Calvert  said it was a “just outcome and one which sounds a warning to those who think they can mistreat Christians in the workplace.”

Although the church had hired the property in June 2019 for one year, it was asked to quit for not complying with the Trust policy.

The court's next step is to hold a hearing to decide the amount of damages which The Robertson Trust will have to pay Ferguson.

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