The Red Cross is coming under mounting pressure to reverse its decision to axe a longstanding volunteer over his opposition to same-sex marriage.
The campaign group Coalition for Marriage has received nearly 50,000 expressions of support for Bryan Barkley, 71, who had helped in the Red Cross’ international family tracing service for close to 20 years.
The group also said over two thousand messages have been sent to the Red Cross, calling for it to reconsider.
A motion backed by four Conservative MPs has been tabled in the Commons, urging the Red Cross to reinstate Mr Barkley.
Tabled by Tory MP Philip Davies, the motion voices deep concern about the charity’s decision, and notes that Mr Barkley’s views were “expressed reasonably, in his own time, and were in no way connected with his work for the Red Cross”.
In August, Mr Barkley was told of the decision to withdraw his “opportunity to volunteer with the British Red Cross permanently and with immediate effect”.
This came after he held a sign which read “No Same Sex Marriage” on the first day same-sex marriages took place in England.
The organisation said there was incompatibility between Mr Barkley’s views on marriage and the Red Cross’ “fundamental principles and values”.
Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe has called on the Prime Minister David Cameron to criticise the Red Cross’ decision, and said she would now be withdrawing her support from the charity because she shares the same view as Mr Barkley.
Writing in the Daily Express, she accused the Red Cross of ‘policing’ the private views of its workforce.
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”.
Colin Hart, Campaign Director for C4M, described the case as “shocking”.
He said Mr Barkley’s “only crime seems to be that he was one of millions of ordinary people who opposed this change”.
“What will disturb most people is that the Red Cross says it is not his actions but his thoughts and views that were the problem.
“Is it now official policy of the Red Cross that any volunteer who holds traditional views on marriage will face the sack?”
A Red Cross spokeswoman commented: “We have said repeatedly that we respect the right of individuals to hold personal views so long as this does not affect their ability to deliver our services impartially to all who need our help, as enshrined in our fundamental principles.
“Where there are serious concerns the British Red Cross has no option but to act.
“We cannot give further details about any specific circumstances because we have a duty of confidentiality in matters like this.”