Edinburgh Council pays damages for cancelling religious speaker

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The church had previously held a Surge conference at the Usher HallImage source, Destiny Ministries

Edinburgh Council has apologised and paid £25,000 in damages to Destiny Ministries after cancelling its three-day conference due to the religious beliefs of a guest speaker.

The conference was to be held in Edinburgh's Usher Hall last summer.

The council cancelled it after receiving a complaint about views held by guest speaker Larry Stockstill.

The council accepted it did not take into account the church's rights under human rights and equality legislation.

Challenged in court

Mr Stockstill, a Louisiana-based preacher, had made previous comments on marriage and sexuality that were said to be based on Biblical study.

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 City of Edinburgh Council spokeswoman said: "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."

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