UPDATE: The National Trust has since reversed the requirement.
The National Trust has told workers at a historic house they are barred from meeting and greeting visitors if they are not wearing a rainbow badge or lanyard symbolising gay rights.
Mike Holmes, 72, is one of ten volunteers at Felbrigg Hall facing relegation to back-office tasks for refusing to wear the badges.
“There’s a group of about ten of us that have volunteered for more than ten years, and we have now been told that if we don’t toe the line, we can’t do our jobs,” Mr Holmes said.
The rainbow badges and lanyards are part of the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice and Pride’ campaign celebrating same-sex attracted people through history.
However, Mr Holmes said, the workers’ objections were not homophobic, but in protest at a new short film ‘The Unfinished Portrait’.
The film, released by the National Trust, “outs” Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, the landowner and historian who bequeathed Felbrigg Hall to the charity in 1969.
“Wyndham would have turned in his grave to know what’s happening,” Mr Holmes said. “He was an intensely private man.”
“The [National Trust] do not have the right to research their benefactors’ private lives to suit the needs of a marketing campaign. It’s abhorrent,” Mr Holmes added.
Godsons of “the Last Squire,” as Ketton-Cremer was known, have also spoken out against the film.
E C Coryton Saltash, from Cornwall, wrote: “Wyndham, who was my godfather, was an intelligent, charming man who dedicated much of his life to Norfolk.
“He was discreet about his sexuality, and I can see no reason why the National Trust should not have respected this. It has betrayed his gift and his trust.”
In a statement, Annabel Smith, the Trust’s head of volunteering, said staff and volunteers sign up to the organisation’s “inclusive values”.
Ms Smith told the Telegraph: “As part of our ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme our staff and volunteers are wearing rainbow badges and lanyards, as an international symbol of welcome.”
“We do recognise that some volunteers may have conflicting, personal opinions. However whilst volunteering for the National Trust we do request and expect individuals to uphold the values of the organisation.”
The charity said the rules on wearing the rainbow lanyards were temporary and would only last until the end of the summer season.