A Christian councillor has been cleared of any wrongdoing for opposing the use of public money to promote LGBT ideology.
Mary Douglas was forced to step down from her role at Wiltshire Council in November 2019 after she voiced opposition to the use of public funds to promote a ‘gay pride’ event.
The council has now admitted that disciplinary proceedings launched against the councillor were wrong and an infringement of her “right to freedom of expression within political debate”.
At a meeting last year, Cllr Douglas objected to a £1,000 council grant being awarded to the organisers of Salisbury Pride 2020.
She argued that she could not support the move because she did not agree with its “ideology and worldview”.
She explained: “I do not want to be a part of promoting this, and I want to be clear this is not just my view, I represent a large number of people, some who are afraid to say something.”
The Pride event’s organiser, a fellow councillor, accused Cllr Douglas of homophobia and she was subsequently removed from her role, but Wiltshire Council has now reversed its decision following an investigation.
Free to disagree
Cllr Douglas said: “I am relieved and thankful for this outcome.
“If the council had found against me, it would have set a precedent that I and other public officials are not allowed to disagree with groups of people, events or political messages with which we disagree.
“Such a verdict would effectively end conversation, debate and the ability to express a belief and opinion.”
She added: “To be able to say what we think and believe is vital for democracy, community cohesion and good decision making.”
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, which supported the case, said the action should never have been taken.
“There is a chilling effect on political debate when an elected official acting in good faith and on behalf of her constituency can be subjected to code of conduct hearings because of nebulous and ill-defined equality considerations.”
She added: “When Cllr Douglas was elected people knew exactly who they were voting for.
“She made no secret of her Christian faith. She is a very popular member of the local community, who has served it well for many years.”