City pays over $35K to Christian ministry for canceling event over speaker’s biblically-based views

Edinburgh’s Usher Hall
Edinburgh’s Usher Hall | ADF International

Facing a full hearing of a lawsuit, the Edinburgh city council agreed to apologize and pay over $35,000 (£25,000) to the Scotland-based Destiny Church for canceling a three-day conference because its keynote speaker, U.S. Pastor Larry Stockstill, had spoken against homosexuality and abortion.

Apart from offering to pay the damages, the council has acknowledged that it had “failed to meet its equalities duties to Destiny Ministries in terms of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore acted unlawfully,” and that it had failed to take account of Destiny’s rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, Christian legal firm ADF U.K. said in a statement.

The authorities canceled the conference that had been scheduled to be held in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall last summer after some groups complained about views held by its guest speaker, Louisiana pastor Larry Stockstill, former pastor of the multicampus Bethany World Prayer Center.

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Stockstill is also the author of the 2007 book He Teaches My Hands to War, in which he calls homosexuality “not normal behavior” and “not accepted by God.” Along with Stockstill, the head of the U.K.-based Evangelical Alliance, Gavin Calver, was also scheduled to speak.

A city council spokesperson had earlier told the Edinburgh Evening News that the event was canceled “due to the keynote speaker’s publicly-stated views about same-sex relationships which are, in the council’s opinion, offensive and discriminatory.”

“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,” said Andrew Owen of Destiny Ministries, according to The Times.

“With this behind us we look forward to being able to make use of council premises in the future as we bring forward the good news of the Gospel,” Owen added.

ADF U.K. conducted a nationwide poll in which two in five students said events were frequently canceled on campus due to the views held by speakers and pressure from other student groups. Half of the Scottish students also said they felt lecturers would treat them differently if they expressed their true opinions on some important issues.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are foundations of every free and democratic society, and must be protected for all people,” ADF U.K. Legal Counsel Jeremiah Igunnubole commented. “We were pleased to support Destiny Ministries in this matter because freedom of religion includes the freedom to manifest your faith in teaching, practice and observance — no one should be discriminated against simply because of their faith.”

The case is about the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, Brent Haywood, litigation partner of law firm Lindsays, who represented Destiny Ministries, said in the statement. “Destiny Ministries is a Christian organization which holds to orthodox biblical teaching. 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.”

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