Christians must not be barred from hiring public venues, says campaign group

Edinburgh City Council cancelled Destiny Church's booking for the Surge Conference because of Larry Stockstill's views on same-sex marriage

A campaign group is warning that Christians are at increasing risk of marginalisation in the UK if they continue to be barred from public venues. 

The Christian Institute has come out in support of a Glasgow church's decision to pursue legal action against Edinburgh Council after it cancelled its booking for the city's Usher Hall. 

Destiny Church was supposed to hold a three-day conference at the prestigious venue but Edinburgh Council pulled the plug because of the views of guest speaker Larry Stockstill, who is opposed to homosexuality. 

The Christian Institute, which successfully backed the Ashers bakery in its gay cake court case, said that the church has a "strong case which they should win". 

In a message to supporters this week, the Christian Institute's Ciarán Kelly said that Edinburgh Council's actions were "a clear case of unlawful religious discrimination" under the Equality Act 2010, and a denial of free speech under the European Convention on Human Rights.

He fears that once life gets back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic, Christians will continue to be barred from meeting in public venues. 

"Our freedoms are currently being curtailed. Churches are unable to meet. Public venues cannot be hired for Christian events," he said.

"This is for very good reasons and we all accept that. Everyone else is affected too – such things are necessary in times of national emergency.

"But when ordinary life resumes we don't want Christians to still be barred from hiring public venues. That's what is at stake in Edinburgh."

Kelly said that Edinburgh Council may have been emboldened to cancel Destiny Church's conference booking because of similar action taken by venue owners across the country over American evangelist Franklin Graham's now postponed tour.

Tour organisers, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), are seeking a "legal resolution" after seven venues cancelled bookings for the Graham Tour. 

Kelly warned: "If Destiny Church or the BGEA can be banned from hiring public venues today, the same could be true for other Christian groups tomorrow. We do not want that to happen."

He added: "We are all seeking to resist the marginalisation of Christians in the UK."