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UK News

Edinburgh Council offers apology and compensation for cancelling church conference in sexuality row

by Cara Bentley

Edinburgh Council has apologised for cancelling a Christian conference because of the beliefs of the guest speaker, saying its venues should be "available to those of any religion or none".

It has also offered £25,000 in financial damages to Destiny Ministries after cancelling their three-day event in Edinburgh's Usher Hall in 2020 due to the beliefs of guest speaker Larry Stockstill. 

The cancellation of the Surge Conference came about after the venue said it had received complaints linked to Stockstill and comments he's previously made which were deemed to be critical of homosexuality.


Larry Stockstill


According to The Times, Stockstill said in a previous sermon: "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."

Andrew Owen, senior pastor at Destiny Church, said at the time: "Larry Stockstill, holds the traditional biblical views on marriage which are commonly held by Christians, Muslims and Jews."

The council faced a legal challenge from Destiny Ministries, supported by Christian legal group ADF UK, and has now admitted they were wrong to cancel the event and that it failed to take account of Destiny Ministry's rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The council has acknowledged that it also "failed to meet its equalities duties to Destiny Ministries in terms of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore acted unlawfully."

Andrew Owen of Destiny Ministries said: "We exist to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world.  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."

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK said: "We welcome the decision of City of Edinburgh Council to acknowledge the right of Destiny Ministries, and those invited to speak for them, to express their Christian faith, including through teaching conferences. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are foundations of every free and democratic society, and must be protected for all people.

"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.

Edinburgh Council has been contacted for comment. 

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