A multimillion-pound charitable trust has been accused of conducting a “sham” disciplinary hearing before dismissing its CEO over his beliefs on marriage.
Kenneth Ferguson is suing The Robertson Trust for unfair dismissal and religious discrimination after he was sacked when chairwoman Shonaig Macpherson objected to Stirling Free Church, where he is an elder, renting premises owned by the Trust.
Macpherson was reportedly “incandescent” when she learned of the arrangement, as the church does not endorse same-sex marriage. An employment tribunal heard this week that her decision to dismiss Mr Ferguson was made before any disciplinary proceedings had taken place.
Representing Kenneth Ferguson, Mr Thomas Cordrey pointed out that one of the charity’s trustees had noted that he didn’t think Kenneth could continue, while another said there would be “one outcome”.
Cordrey also highlighted that prior to any disciplinary hearing, Macpherson told a trustee Mr Ferguson’s action “equals gross misconduct leading to dismissal”.
The tribunal saw an email sent by the chairwoman to fellow board members referring to “the views of the Free Church in relation to homosexuality and gay marriage”. It also heard that the trustees had expressed doubt they could “handle” Mr Ferguson’s religious views.
Mr Cordrey said: “We can read it in black and white, Ms Macpherson. Before you have even spoken to Mr Ferguson, before any disciplinary process has commenced, you decided it was ‘gross misconduct leading to dismissal’.”
He added: “It was all a sham, wasn’t it? You were just ticking boxes to get you to the position you needed to be in to get rid of Mr Ferguson.”
Macpherson denied the accusation.
The hearing has been extended and is likely to resume in the new year.