Police sacked chaplain ‘for opposing gay marriage’

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A RETIRED Church of Scotland minister has claimed he was removed from his post as chaplain at Strathclyde Police because of his opposition to gay marriage.

The Reverend Brian Ross made the claim in a written submission to a Commons committee looking at the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

He warned that if the bill is passed, more clergymen could face losing their positions with public bodies.

Mr Ross said that his three-year voluntary position came to an end just before last summer after a senior divisional officer read his views on protecting traditional marriage in his personal blog.

In his evidence to MPs, Mr Ross said that he served as a volunteer Force Chaplain to Strathclyde Police.

“I was extremely active in regular visitation and in identifying myself with officers and staff,” he said. “I submitted a monthly article to the different divisional bulletins and attended all of the force, and divisional, events as invited.

“The result of my endeavours was that I gained the trust of those I sought to serve, and was being used by some in pastoral situations.”

He added: “However, just before the summer, a senior officer in one of the divisions read my personal blog and objected to my expressed support for traditional marriage as, it was claimed, it went against the force’s equality and diversity policies. I was summoned to a meeting, the end result of which has been that my services have been dispensed with.

“This, I would emphasise, is before any legislation has been placed on the statute book.”

While Mr Ross accepted that his position was voluntary, he said the same problems could arise for those serving in hospitals and other publicly-funded bodies.

His case has been taken up by opponents of gay marriage who argue it is the latest example of discrimination against religious beliefs. Colin Hart, the campaign director for Coalition for Marriage, the umbrella group representing religious bodies and charities opposing same-sex marriage, said: “This is just the start of things to come.

“We have consistently warned that ripping up the current definition would lead to all sorts of consequences, including people getting sacked and being forced out of their jobs because of their beliefs. When will the government finally admit what legal experts, MPs, even teachers, are saying, that the so-called safeguards are not worth the paper they are written on – they will be challenged in the courts and will be overturned.”

Strathclyde Police last night refused to discuss the circumstances of Rev Ross’s departure, but denied it was because of his views on marriage. A spokeswoman said: “It was decided that his services were no longer required.”

In the Commons, the bill to legalise gay marriage in England and Wales became a major test of Prime Minister David Cameron’s authority, with more than half of Tory MPs voting against it despite his strong support for the proposal. The bill is currently at the committee stage. A separate bill legalising same sex-marriage in Scotland is under consultation.