A multi-campus church in Scotland is suing the Edinburgh City Council after they canceled a conference because of one of the speaker’s views on homosexuality.
Destiny Church, which is based in Glasgow, planned to use Edinburgh’s Usher Hall for its “Surge Conference.” However, the City Council canceled the event after they received complaints about the views of one of the main speakers, The Christian Post reports.
Larry Stockstill, who was formerly the pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA, was scheduled to speak at the event. In a 2007 book titled He Teaches My Hands to War, Stockhill wrote, “Don’t be deceived. Homosexuality is not normal behavior and it is not accepted by God.”
A spokesperson for the City Council explained their decision, saying, “The Destiny Church event at the Usher Hall 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.” He continued, “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.” He acknowledged the free speech issues the cancellation raised but admitted that their decision was ultimately guided by their commitment to protect LGBT people from speech that calls their lifestyles sinful, Edinburg Evening News reports. “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 spokesperson added.
The church said that in “protecting people from discrimination,” they actually ended up discriminating against the church.” Destiny Church’s senior pastor Andrew Owen 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 the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights.)” He continued, “Under the Equality Act 2010, the city of Edinburgh Council is also discriminating on the grounds of religious belief.”
This is not the first time evangelicals have been barred from holding events in the UK. Three event venues in the UK canceled events that Franklin Graham was scheduled to hold in May.
Owen believes the actions by the Council are unlawful and that they do not have the right to decide what constitutes acceptable forms of speech. He said, “We organized 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 City Council said they have no plans to back down from their position, even in the face of a lawsuit. The spokesman said, “The council will vigorously defend its position in order to protect and promote diversity and equal rights for all.”