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Scouts give up in Christian scoutmaster's discrimination case

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The Scout Association has agreed to settle a discrimination claim of Mr Brian Walker, a veteran scoutmaster expelled from the Association last year for criticising its official magazine for “promoting” Islam and LGBT pride events.
 
Mr Walker, 62, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, brought a claim alleging discrimination on the grounds of his Christian beliefs.
 
In August, he accepted the Scout Association’s offer to pay damages and compensate his legal costs in an out-of-court settlement. Mr Walker intends to donate the entire sum of the award to the Christian Legal Centre, to be spent on similar cases challenging anti-Christian discrimination.
 
The agreement was reached less than a month after a court hearing in Bristol where a judge refused the Scout Association’s application to “strike out” Mr Walker’s claim as having no real prospects of success. 

Expelled for concerns about drift from Christian roots

Having dedicated 52 years of his life to the Scout Movement, Mr Walker was barred from membership for writing to the movement’s official magazine expressing his concern that the charity was moving away from its Christian roots.

In his letter, Mr Walker raised several concerns:

  • that the movement was promoting political correctness and interfaith issues (even encouraging scouts to visit a mosque); but for St George's Day advised using a non-religious venue for St George's day services and celebrations.
  • that in the Scouting faith calendar, no meaning was attached to the Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter; but that Islam was widely promoted.
  • that the magazine should be careful in promoting Islam, given the way the religion treats women and their rights.
  • that an article showed a female Muslim scout leader taking girls canoeing wearing her full Islamic veil. Concerned about safety, he wrote "“Hello! Canoeists don’t dress like that… because they need all round unobstructed vision so they protect the group, and of course they will most likely drown wearing that Darth Vader tent!".

His letter, sent to Scouting Magazine's editor on 18 March 2017, was never published, but the Scout movement’s District Commissioner for Bristol South, Scott Stowell, wrote back to Mr Walker to expel him with immediate effect.

Mr Walker, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, appealed his dismissal from the organisation. However, in a meeting of the Appeal Committee on 7 June 2017, although Mr Walker stated “I did not mean to offend anyone personally, but was making a wider point about the values of Scouting”, the panel agreed with the original decision and advised Mr Walker that his membership was cancelled.
 
Scouting “based on Christian principles”
 
Half a year later, Mr Walker brought a legal action for discrimination against him on the grounds of his Christian beliefs, and alleging that the Association had breached its own Equal Opportunities Policy. He said at the time:
 
“Scouting was started in 1908 by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, based on Christian principles, whilst welcoming those of all faiths and none. Over recent years, I have been concerned that the movement has increasingly promoted Islam above Christianity. Islam is not what has given the scouting movement its inclusive and welcoming nature.
 
“The irony is that the Chief Scout is Bear Grylls, an internationally-known Christian who is the figure-head for the Alpha Course - which specifically states that Jesus is the only way to God and that Christianity is unique! Their own Chief Scout believes this, and says this publicly, and yet, when I, as a grass roots member for 52 years, challenge the values in a letter which is not even published, I am silenced and dismissed.
 
“I am raising this case as I believe the fundamental values of Scouting are being undermined. Parents need to be made aware of what is happening at the centre of Scouting, and will eventually flow out into the local groups. We need to act now to maintain and protect the values on which the movement was based.”

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