An Employment Tribunal has ruled that Scotland’s biggest grant-making trust unlawfully discriminated against its CEO because of his Christian views on marriage.
According to the Tribunal judgment, Kenneth Ferguson was unfairly dismissed by The Robertson Trust. It also found that he had been subjected to religious discrimination by the Trust and its Chairwoman, Shonaig Macpherson, for believing that marriage is exclusively between a man and woman.
Ferguson was dismissed from The Robertson Trust in March 2020 after Macpherson objected to Stirling Free Church, where he is an elder, renting Trust premises.
In its ruling, the Tribunal said the impression given was of Macpherson “seeking to find reasons” to justify the dismissal of Ferguson prior to March 2020.
Highlighting the “very unusual process” employed in the dismissal of Ferguson, the majority of the Tribunal decided that “the issue of the beliefs of the claimant and Church with which he was associated” had been on the mind of MacPherson throughout the whole procedure.
The Tribunal concluded that “the picture painted” was “a suspicious one”.
Relief and thanks
Responding to the news, Kenneth 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.”
He added: “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.”
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.Kenneth Ferguson
The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs Simon Calvert welcomed the Tribunal judgment: “We are very pleased with this clear Tribunal ruling in Kenneth Ferguson’s favour.”
He added: “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. This is a just outcome and one which sounds a warning to those who think they can mistreat Christians in the workplace.”
Mr Calvert concluded: “The Christian Institute has had the privilege of supporting Kenneth throughout this battle and underwriting his legal costs via our Legal Defence Fund.”
Following the Tribunal outcome, The Robertson Trust said it was “deeply saddened” by some of its findings and would need time to “reflect” on the judgment. A further hearing will now be held to determine the amount of damages which the Trust will have to pay Ferguson.