Scottish church sues Edinburgh council over right to host American preacher who labelled homosexuality 'not normal behaviour'

A Scottish church has launched legal action against Edinburgh City Council over its right to host an American pastor who labelled homosexuality "not normal behaviour".

Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 7:10 am
The church had planned to host Louisiana-based preacher Larry Stockstill

Destiny Church, who are based in Glasgow, had their three-day 'Surge Conference' set for June cancelled in January after the council received complaints about one of their speakers.

Suing the council on freedom of expression and freedom of religion grounds, Destiny's senior pastor Andrew Owen said the move to cancel the event at the Usher Hall was discriminatory.

The church had planned to host Louisiana-based preacher Larry Stockstill who, in his 2007 book He Teaches My Hands to War, wrote: “Don’t be deceived. Homosexuality is not normal behaviour and it is not accepted by God.”

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A spokesman for the council said it would defend itself "vigorously" and added it would not allow its venues used as a platform for discrimination.

Scottish law firm Lindsays is acting on behalf of the church and argues that the council's actions are in breach of the European Convention on Human RIghts as well as UK equality law.

Mr Owen, from Destiny, said: "We understand that this is a fairly clear-cut breach of the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the freedom of expression, enshrined in ECHR.

"Under the Equality Act 2010 the City of Edinburgh Council is also discriminating on the grounds of religious belief.

"We organised an event, which we are free to do, at which speakers will express their religious views, as they are free to do.

"It is unlawful for the City of Edinburgh to cancel an event because it determines that the views previously expressed by a speaker are not acceptable."

The church said the council was offered a chance to reconsider prior to legal action commencing, while the council advised the church the booking would be honoured if Mr Stockstill was removed from the agenda.

‘Offensive and discriminatory’

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “The Destiny Church event at the Usher Hall was cancelled due to the keynote speaker’s publicly-stated views about same-sex relationships which are, in the council’s opinion, offensive and discriminatory.

"We are committed to promoting diversity and equal rights for all. The proposed event did not meet the standards which we expect from those hiring and visiting our venues to respect and observe and the booking was therefore cancelled.

“The council is mindful of the need to protect freedom of speech, but will not allow its venues to be used as a platform for speakers who discriminate against particular sections of society.

“The council will vigorously defend its position in order to protect and promote diversity and equal rights for all.”