Edinburgh council to pay £25k compensation after cancelling booking over speaker who said homosexuality 'not normal'

Edinburgh City Council has offered a Glasgow-based church an apology and £25,000 in compensation after cancelling its booking of the Usher Hall over plans to host an American pastor who claimed homosexuality was “not normal behaviour”.

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Destiny Ministries launched a legal action against the authority after their three-day “Surge Conference” set for June was cancelled in January following complaints about one of the speakers, Louisiana-based preacher Larry Stockstill.

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In a 2007 book entitled “He Teaches My Hands to War”, Mr Stockstill wrote: “Don’t be deceived. Homosexuality is not normal behaviour and it is not accepted by God.”

The church had planned to host Louisiana-based preacher Larry Stockstill

The church claimed the council’s cancellation of its booking was “a fairly clear-cut breach of the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the freedom of expression, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights” as well as against UK equality law.

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The council said Mr Stockstill’s publicly-stated views about same-sex relationships were “offensive and discriminatory” and it would vigorously defend its action.

But now the authority has accepted it did not take into account the church’s rights under ECHR and equality legislation and offered the apology and compensation.

Andrew Owen, of Destiny Ministries, welcomed the move. He said the council’s decision to cancel the booking “related directly to our religion and belief” and the church had decided to challenge a “serious infringement of religious liberty and freedom of expression”.

He said: “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. With this behind us we look forward to being able to make use of council premises in the future.”

A 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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