The UK is in lockdown, but this church is suing Edinburgh because the city refused to host a homophobic preacher
A fundamentalist church has launched legal action against the City of Edinburgh after having its booking for a public venue cancelled over a speaker who suggests homosexuality is caused by a demonic spirit.
The Glasgow-based Destiny Church had planned to hold a three-day conference at Edinburgh’s publicly-owned Usher Hall in June, but was denied permission to use the venue after inviting US anti-LGBT+ preacher Larry Stockstill to deliver the keynote address.
Even though all public events in June are now legally restricted anyway due to coronavirus, the church is still pressing ahead with legal action against Edinburgh – accusing the city of illegally discriminating based on religion.
Despite coronavirus, church claims Edinburgh is violating its right to hold an event.
Destiny’s senior pastor Andrew Owen told the Edinburgh News: “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 city has said it will defend itself from the crowdfunded action, noting that keynote speaker Larry Stockstill’s “publicly-stated views about same-sex relationships which are, in the council’s opinion, offensive and discriminatory”.
Stockstill, from Louisiana, has claimed: “Don’t be deceived. Homosexuality is not normal behaviour and it is not accepted by God… All demons are unclean, unholy things. Incest is such a spirit and so is homosexuality.”
He has previously indicated support for conversion therapy, insisting in 2006 that a fellow pastor who was caught with male sex workers would undergo rehabilitation for his “problem”.
Council says event ‘did not meet standards’.
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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.”
It is not the first time Destiny Church has had public issues. The fundamentalist church was previously banned from using Church of Scotland premises in 2018 for staging a separate rally with a “miracle healer” who claims to cure cancer.
Ahead of the introduction of same-sex marriage in Scotland, the church’s leadership co-signed a letter claiming that “Scottish society will be the poorer if the definition of marriage is rewritten,” adding: “If marriage is redefined who is to say that, for example, polygamy should not be legalised?”