Britain’s National Trust is facing a crisis among its membership after outing one of its donors, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, and forcing its volunteers to sport rainbow flags at Ketton-Cremer’s donated property.
The controversy comes after the Trust’s Prejudice and Pride program outed Ketton-Cremer, a country squire whose family called him “intensely private.” Ketton-Cremer, a lifelong bachelor, was a major donor to the Trust; after his death in 1969, he bequeathed the group Felbrigg Hall, his ancestral home near Cromer, England.
Later, reports emerged from volunteers at the estate, who alleged they were forced to wear LGBT rainbow flag symbols. Volunteers who refused to do so were told they couldn’t meet or greet guests at Felbrigg Hall.
The rainbow flag garb was meant to honor the 50th anniversary of homosexuality’s decriminalization in the U.K. About 10 volunteers refused to wear the rainbow flag uniform to protest the Trust’s choice to out Ketton-Cremer, The Telegraph reports.
The kickback doesn’t stop there, though: over 240 Trust members contacted the group to cancel their memberships in the wake of the controversy.
Dame Helen Ghosh from the Trust told The Telegraph that the 10 protestors were a “small proportion” of the Felbrigg Hall volunteers who felt uncomfortable with the project.
“They are free to step back from the volunteer role, or take a different role for the duration,” she said.
The National Trust has over 5 million members and recruits over 62,000 volunteers to support its hundreds of miles of coastline and countryside land, visited by over 20,000 people annually. The organization relies heavily on the support of its volunteers.