An employment tribunal has heard evidence of the fury of a multimillion-pound charity trust’s chairwoman when she discovered its premises were being let to a church which does not support same-sex marriage.
Kenneth Ferguson, an elder at Stirling Free Church, had been CEO of The Robertson Trust in Scotland since 2011 but was dismissed in March this year after Chairwoman Shonaig Macpherson objected to his church renting premises owned by the Trust.
Mr Ferguson is suing the Trust for around £75,000. His legal action is being supported by The Christian Institute.
‘On the warpath’
On the first day of proceedings, the tribunal heard statements and emails from employees describing Macpherson’s behaviour upon learning of the church’s £6,500 agreement to use space in The Barracks Conference Centre in Stirling for its Sunday services.
In a written statement, the Trust’s former Head of Social Investment Katie Campbell told the court that Macpherson was “clearly very angry” and that her “voice was audibly shaking” shortly after making the discovery. In an email she warned Mr Ferguson that the chairwoman was “on the warpath”.
Am worried for you. We know how she can be and she really sounded angry.
In an email to another employee, Campbell said Macpherson was “appalled at the idea of the Free Church using a trust space”.
Another of Mr Ferguson’s colleagues emailed him to say: “Please take care on this one. Am worried for you. We know how she can be and she really sounded angry.”
Macpherson denied being angry, claiming instead to have been “animated” and “distressed”.
She did admit disagreeing with the church’s beliefs and the tribunal also heard that Macpherson sent emails to her board and trustees mentioning the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
But she denied that this played a factor in Ferguson’s dismissal, repeatedly claiming to be unable to recall referencing the Free Church’s views and that her main concern had been Mr Ferguson’s alleged “conflict of interest” which the trustees had not been made aware of.
However, the tribunal heard that Mr Ferguson had not been involved in any negotiations between the church and the Trust, had declared his interests in advance, and the work had been handled by Katie Campbell.