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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Abbi Garton-Crosbie

Evangelical Scots pastor condemned for 'disturbing' comments about Humza Yousaf

A PASTOR has been condemned for "disturbing" comments where he described Humza Yousaf as a “godless leader” and said his appointment as First Minister is a “scheme of Satan” during a sermon.

Dave Brackenridge, also CEO of charity Rookie Rockstars which operates in a number of Scottish primary schools, said that he was willing to lose his job in order to preach the teachings of Jesus during a live stream posted on YouTube.

Brackenridge is also a lead pastor at Home Church Scotland, formerly of the Church of Scotland, which has congregations in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, and the East End of Glasgow, also a registered charity.

He said that both Yousaf, a Muslim, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Hindu who he mistakenly described as a Sikh, “need Jesus” and railed against a “godless parliament”.

The comments were condemned as “divisive and harmful”, while the Humanist Society called for Brackenridge to be suspended from his work in schools following the “disturbing” remarks.

The National Lottery Community Fund, who have previously given thousands to Rookie Rockstars, have confirmed that they are investigating the comments.

Home Church Scotland is an evangelical Christian ministry, where Brackenridge is listed as lead pastor on its website, alongside his wife Ela. He joined the church in September 2018.

The Rookie Rockstars charity claims to operate in 23 out of Scotland’s 32 council areas on its website, with concerns raised to the Sunday National regarding Brackenridge’s position as charity boss.

The charity runs a programme in primary schools where pupils record songs on a CD, discussing issues like bullying, but also offers counselling services called Rookie Minds.

Speaking during a sermon streamed live on YouTube on October 15, 2023, Brackenridge told the audience that he would be “put in jail” for the comments he was about to make.

He said: “How do we get to the place where we’ve got a Sikh [Hindu] Prime Minister and a Muslim First Minister but a Christian can’t get anywhere near the table in politics?

“How did we get there? Satan.”

He went on to say that Christians are “hated” and “despised” despite only being a group that “loves people”.

“I don’t understand it. It can only be a scheme of Satan, can’t it? Because it doesn’t make any sense other than that right?” Brackenridge added.

“But we’ve got a godless parliament, we’ve got godless leadership in our nation and it needs to change.

“That’s why we’re called to pray for our leaders, because Ricki [Rishi] Sunak needs Jesus … [it is] very very difficult for the rich to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, we know that but the man needs Jesus.”

He added that “Hamza [Humza] Yousaf needs Jesus”, and praised former SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes for sticking to her Christian principles, and claimed they made her “unelectable”.

Brackenridge also said, in regards to transgender people in Scotland: “If I told you ten years ago that I could say I’m a lassie and stoat into a woman’s dressing room, you wouldn’t have believed that either. But we’re there.”

Later in the lengthy sermon, Brackenridge also claimed that Christian persecution is “going to get worse”, before muting the livestream for a period of time.

Fraser Sutherland, chief executive of Humanist Society Scotland said that parents in schools where Rookie Rockstars operate “will be concerned” about the possibility of them being counselled “by someone who believes 'Satan' is literally behind democratic appointments in the UK because those leaders are not Christians”.

“It will also be highly concerning for Hindu, Muslim and non-religious parents that an individual who sees their beliefs as a problem to be solved through Christian evangelism is being invited into classrooms across central Scotland,” he added.

"Local authorities have a legal obligation under the Equality Act to ensure people of all faiths and none are equally treated in their service provision. This includes children in schools.”

The chief executive added that he had concerns about Brackenridge’s statement that his duty is to “actively recruit people to Jesus” in their workplace.

“He says he will do this 'even if it costs me my job',” he added.

“This must immediately result in a suspension of his work in schools. Proselytising to school pupils is totally incompatible with Equality Act duties and government guidance for schools on religion and belief.”

Sutherland said the comments made by Brackenridge were an example of “concerted attempts” to import Christian nationalism inspired by US preachers to Scotland.

“The idea that people of other beliefs or those of no religious belief should be shunned from high office because they are not Christian displays a disturbing attempt to sow division at a time where cross-community cohesion is more important than ever,” he added.

Megan Manson, head of campaigns at the National Secular Society, said: "No charity should be used as a platform for divisive and harmful rhetoric.”

Manson raised concerns that charity regulators are “unable to prevent” these kinds of messages from being promoted under the “cloak of religion”.

"That's why a review of the charitable purpose of 'the advancement of religion' is needed urgently,” she added.

The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) said it had assessed three complaints about Home Church Scotland in the past year.

A spokesperson said: “In each case, we have concluded that none of the matters raised are breaches of the charity’s responsibilities under charity law.

“In line with our responsibilities under the Equality Act, OSCR will not intervene in the activities of religious charities seeking to promote their religious beliefs unless their activities have the clear and direct effect of harming others or otherwise breach the law."

Rookie Rockstars has received thousands of pounds in grants from a number of sources, including the Scottish Government. The National Lottery Community Fund has given the charity three separate grants, totalling £28,640, the last in March 2020.

A National Lottery Community Fund spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a complaint was received and investigated. As part of our policies and procedures, we look into any complaints or concerns raised about projects that we fund”

The Scottish Government gave the group £23,470 through the Communities Recovery fund in November 2020. They declined to comment.

East Dunbartonshire Council, where the charity is based, said they could not confirm if they had received any complaints regarding the Rookie Rockstars or Brackenridge due to confidentiality, but insisted no counselling services were provided by the group in the authority’s primary schools. They did not confirm or deny how frequently Rookie Rockstars operated in schools in the area. The group has a base in Kirkintilloch, as well as Cumbernauld and Falkirk.

Stirling Council confirmed the charity has worked within the authority’s primary schools and provides counselling in a “cluster” of primary schools.

“We were not aware of the CEO’s activity outwith the organisation and have not received any complaints relating to this,” a spokesperson added.

Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, Midlothian and Inverclyde said they had used the charity’s services in the past, while East Ayrshire Council, listed on the charity’s website as one of the areas they operate, told the Sunday National they had “not engaged this company to provide any services within any educational facility”.

Brackenridge, Home Church Scotland and Rookie Rockstars did not respond to our request for comment.

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