Ann Widdecombe has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to condemn the Red Cross’ decision to dismiss a volunteer because he opposed gay marriage.
Writing for the Daily Express, the former Tory minister accused the organisation of ‘policing’ the private views of its workforce.
Bryan Barkley was sacked from the Red Cross after nearly 20 years of service because he held up a sign saying “No Same Sex Marriage”.
Widdecombe said: “I challenge Mr Cameron to condemn the Red Cross for this decision and if he does not then we must assume that this was the sort of country he wanted all along”.
Describing the Red Cross, she said: “This supposedly neutral organisation has sacked a man who has worked for 20 years as a volunteer just because he opposes gay marriage.”
She continued: “He did not mention the Red Cross nor did its name appear in any reports of the protest”.
Widdecombe raised the case of Adrian Smith, who was demoted and received a cut in his salary because he stated his opposition to gay marriage.
“One can conclude only that this charity polices private views in much the same way that Trafford Housing did in the infamous Adrian Smith case”, she said.
Addressing the Prime Minister directly, she continued: “Parliament was given assurance after assurance that freedom of conscience would be respected if the law on marriage was changed. What price those promises now, Mr Cameron?”
Freedom of expression
The former Tory minister, who has fund-raised for the Red Cross, said that she would now be withdrawing her support from the charity because she shares the same view as Mr Barkley.
“Let us be clear: the issue here is not whether one supports gay marriage or not but whether one should be free to state a position”, said Widdecombe.
She concluded: “What has happened to the freedom of expression we all once took for granted and when did it become acceptable for employers and charities to censor the views of individuals when pronounced outside the workplace or organisation?”
In August, Mr Barkley, 71, was told of the decision to withdraw his “opportunity to volunteer with the British Red Cross permanently and with immediate effect”.
The reason given was the incompatibility between his views on marriage and the Red Cross’ “fundamental principles and values”.
Coalition for Marriage, an umbrella group of supporters of traditional marriage, is backing Mr Barkley and described the actions of the Red Cross as “shocking”.