A Scottish church leader has told Premier his church's legal victory over Edinburgh Council is a win for Christians across the UK.
The local authority apologised on Thursday for cancelling a Christian conference organised by Destiny Church because of the beliefs of guest speaker Larry Stockstill about homosexuality. It said its venues should be "available to those of any religion or none".
It also offered £25,000 in financial damages to Destiny Ministries after cancelling their three-day event in Edinburgh's Usher Hall in 2020.
Andrew Owen, senior pastor at Destiny Church, told Premier he's delighted about the win: "Fantastic. Not just for us as a ministry of churches, but I think it's a win for every church and for every Christian group because I think what was unique about this was the local authority, the council, locking us out of a council owned premises.
"It wasn't a private property, it was owned by us, the taxpayers...we pay our council tax, that belongs to us as much as anybody else. I think it was a big win and I also have to applaud Edinburgh Council for reconsidering."
He also expressed concern about free speech and freedom of religion: "I think it's very, very challenging. There's far too many cases, weekly, up and down this country, of people being closed down, shut down, cancelled.
"I think it's immensely challenging and I think I probably have the view of most Christians, we remind people we have a very different view of life...as we take the Bible as our authority for life and for living. But we want the same rights, we think we should have the same opportunity to speak up and talk up and think up. I think it's concerning and I personally feel that we should push back as far as we're able to...if not, then I think we should be determined to push it as far as we can and to maintain our rights which are being eroded, very, very fast.
"My concern is that authorities and councils and universities and the like will start creating their own in-house policies to try and deviate and find routes around the law, and that's a concern. But I think we've had a win. There's been several other wins. So, I think it's good progress. Let's keep up the good fight of faith."
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.
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."
Owen said he wanted to encourage other smaller Christian groups who are facing the same pressures and the same challenges when it comes to human rights: "we're a sizable organization and we had the support of sizeable organisations to take this on. I'm very aware that there are very many small Christian groups who have faced the same pressure and the same problem who don't feel they have the capacity or the finances or the resources to come back at it and I just want them to know we were fighting for them. And it's a win for everybody and we're rooting for them, whoever they are, wherever they are, if they're holding up the gospel, preaching the name of Jesus. This was your win as much as ours."
Edinburgh Council has been contacted for comment.