Fired CEO of poverty charity ‘subsidised’ horrifically anti-LGBT+ church where he was an elder
A leading charity fighting poverty in Scotland is being sued by its own former CEO, who is claiming religious discrimination after he was fired for working with anti-LGBT+ church.
The Robertson Trust, based in Glasgow, is “one of Scotland’s largest independent funders” which supports “organisations working to alleviate poverty and trauma in Scotland”.
Its former CEO Kenneth Ferguson claims that he was pushed out after a row with chair Shonaig Macpherson over him renting a trust-owned building to the anti-LGBT+ Stirling Free Church, where he is an elder.
According to The Herald, Ferguson, who led the charity from 2011 until March this year when he was dismissed, is now suing the charity for almost £75,000, claiming unfair dismissal, discrimination and religious harassment.
He rented out the building to the anti-LGBT+ church so it could conduct its Sunday services there for £6,500 per year.
The church denies the existence of trans people, believes abortion should be illegal in the UK and strictly adheres to the Westminster confession of faith, which insists that marriage is purely heterosexual.
Ferguson claimed: “I was told by two members of my senior management team that Shonaig Macpherson went ‘ballistic’ and was almost unable to speak because she was so angry.
“She kept asking why the trust had rented to the Stirling Free Church. One colleague told me that Shonaig had said ‘definitely not the Free Church, anyone but the Free Church, they don’t believe in same-sex marriage’. They said she was ‘incandescent with anger’.”
Stirling Free Church was told that its use of the building “does not comply with trust policy”, which prohibits the promotion of political or religious beliefs, and was asked to vacate.
The anti-LGBT+ church is now also suing the charity, seeking damages for breach of contract and discrimination, and its case will be heard in the spring.
Ferguson and Stirling Free Church are both being supported in their legal challenges by The Christian Institute, which has which has long opposed same-sex marriage, LGBT+ discrimination protections and trans rights.
But The Robertson Trust said Ferguson’s dismissal was not decided by his links to the church, but by his “continued, and documented, underperformance”.
However, it did say that the former CEO had given the anti-LGBT+ church subsidised rates, which Ferguson denies, and that he been given a written warning after he failed to declare his links to the church.
Vice chair of the charity’s board of trustees Gerry McLaughlin said the trust had worked with faith groups many times, and denied any suggestion of discrimination against Ferguson.
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He said: “The claim that The Robertson Trust, or members of its board, would discriminate against anyone based on religion or for any other reason, is completely unfounded.
“The failure to disclose a conflict of interest when applying trust resources and offering heavily subsidised rates to the Stirling Free Church, of which he is an elder, led to disciplinary action against the then chief executive resulting in a final written warning, but not his dismissal.
Ferguson’s employment tribunal will begin on 14 December.