Christian CEO was discriminated against because of his views on marriage, says tribunal

Kenneth Ferguson(Photo: The Christian Institute)

The Christian CEO of Scotland's biggest grant-making trust has won his unfair dismissal and religious discrimination case against his former employer.

Kenneth Ferguson was CEO of the Robertson Trust from 2011 until his dismissal in March 2020, supposedly for "performance issues".

His dismissal came after the trust cancelled a booking by Stirling Free Church, where Ferguson is an elder, for use of its Barracks conference venue. 

Chair of the trust, Shonaig Macpherson, was reportedly angered by the booking because of the church's traditional stance on marriage. 

Although it was claimed that the trust had a neutrality policy that meant it could not rent out the property to organisations promoting religious or political views, the employment tribunal heard that Stonewall and other groups supporting same-sex marriage had been allowed to use the space. 

The tribunal concluded that Ferguson was unfairly dismissed by the trust and subjected to religious discrimination by both the trust and Macpherson.

"The impression was of [Macpherson] seeking to find reasons to justify dismissal, that that decision in her mind had been taken well before 16 March 2020," the tribunal said.

"The inference that the majority draws is that the issue of [Kenneth Ferguson's] beliefs remained one that was one of the reasons for that decision to dismiss."

It added that Ferguson's beliefs on marriage were protected, and that it was "trite that it is lawful to hold such beliefs and to express them."

A further hearing will be held to determine the amount of damages the trust must pay to Ferguson. 

Commenting on the outcome, Ferguson said: "I'm just relieved this is over. It's been a very difficult time for me and my family.

"I was treated by The Robertson Trust in a way I had never been treated before in my whole professional life. But I'm satisfied that justice has been done. The tribunal has ruled that they were wrong to behave that way and I'm grateful.

"I also want to thank those who have supported me and prayed for me, especially those at The Christian Institute who have been such a blessing to me."

Simon Calvert, spokesman for The Christian Institute, said he was "very pleased" with the tribunal had ruled in Ferguson's favour. 

"This ruling is a welcome re-statement of the principle, upheld again and again in the courts, that the Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman is a belief protected by equality law and worthy of respect in a democratic society," he said.

"This is a just outcome and one which sounds a warning to those who think they can mistreat Christians in the workplace."