A minister in the Church of Scotland has accused Christian charity Scripture Union of discriminating against homosexuals.
Revd David Young complained to the Kirk’s General Assembly that the charity was excluding LGBT people from volunteering.
But Scripture Union’s ethos statement for volunteers is clear: “In our present culture we feel the need to emphasise that SU staff and volunteers display distinctiveness in the area of sexual purity, avoiding even a ‘hint of sexual immorality’.”
The charity, formed in 1867, runs Bible study groups for children in schools and churches across the UK.
Scripture Union’s statement of faith clearly says its staff and volunteers must be “united in our commitment to the aims, beliefs and working principles of Scripture Union”.
But Revd Young, from Helensburgh Parish Church, told the General Assembly: “A member of my staff was told she would not be welcome in helping to lead a Scripture Union group because she is in a same-sex marriage.”
Organisations with a distinct religious ethos can be exempted from some employment discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010.
In addition, in 2012 The Christian Institute intervened in a case before the UK Supreme Court which held that volunteer workers do not come within the employment provisions in equality regulations.
This saved churches and other Christian bodies from having to navigate equality law when taking on volunteers.
‘Built on scripture’
Andy Bathgate, Chief Executive of Scripture Union Scotland, told The Christian Institute the attack was “very, very concerning” but “not entirely surprising, given the decisions that have been made by the Church of Scotland” in recent years.
He confirmed that Scripture Union Scotland has no plans to change its policy: “We’re simply making a clear statement about what we have always believed about what God’s intention is for sexual relations.”
“That is fundamental to us as an organisation that is built on scripture” and “we’re calling staff and volunteers to live a distinctive Christian lifestyle.”