The U.K.’s Labour Party leader has issued an apology for visiting a church on Good Friday that believes marriage is between one man and one woman, The Christian Post reports.
In a now-deleted video, Sir Keir Starmer praised Jesus House for All the Nations, a Pentecostal church in the Redeemed of Church denomination, for their service to the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The church has operated as a vaccination clinic and has run a food bank.
Starmer expressed similar sentiments in a now-deleted tweet.
“I recently visited @JesusHouseUK to hear about their crucial work in the community.” he wrote at the time. “Churches across the country have played such a vital role in the fight against the virus.”
“I hope everyone has a good, restful and safe Easter weekend.”
In a statement on Monday morning, the Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights condemned Starmer’s visit to the London-based church, calling it “unacceptable”. The group claimed that the church holds “Anti-LGBT+” views and was also well known for its “connections to conversion therapy.”
The group further ordered Starmer to delete the video and issue an apology, given that the Labour Party “has a proud history of LGBT+ rights.”
“But history is not enough,” The Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights contended. “We all still believe that the surest way to achieve LGBT+ equality is through the Labour Party, but the events of the last few days have set that cause back.”
“The Party has work to do to regain our trust and the trust of the LGBT+ community at large,” the statement concluded.
Later that day, Starmer posted a tweet apologizing for his visit to the church and noted that he had removed the video.
“I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit,” he explained. “I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake, and I accept that.”
The group, in turn, thanked Starmer for his apology in a follow-up tweet.
“Thank you @KeirStarmer. We are pleased that you have recognised and apologised for this mistake,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with you to end conversion therapy and achieve equality for LGBT+ people.”
On the other hand, Brendan O’Neill, the publisher of Spiked, criticized Starmer in an op-ed for the Spectator titled “Starmer Was Wrong to Say Sorry for Visiting Jesus House.”
“In apologizing for visiting Christians who hold biblical beliefs about homosexuality, Starmer has insulted vast numbers of people,” O’Neill argues. “It is he who has behaved in an intolerant way, because he has essentially said that he will not associate with any religious group that doesn’t agree with his views on same-sex issues. To turn your back on good people because they disagree with you on sexual or social matters is a species of dogmatism, too.”
O’Neill noted that he had visited a Catholic Church on Easter that also opposes same-sex marriage.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, the Vatican reiterated that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions, because God ‘does not and cannot bless sin.’ So Starmer should never visit a Catholic institution, either?” he asked.
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