Sir. Keir Starmer, leader of the UK Labor Party, was forced to apologize for visiting a church on Good Friday that critics have attacked as “anti-LGBT” for adhering to biblical sexual ethics.
In a video since deleted, Starmer praised the House of Jesus for All Nations on Friday for being a “wonderful example” of a church serving its community during the coronavirus pandemic, including acting as a vaccination center and running a food Bank.
“I recently visited @JesusHouseUK to hear about his crucial work in the community,” Starmer announced in a tweet that has also been removed. “Churches across the country have played a critical role in fighting the virus. I hope everyone has a good, quiet and safe Easter weekend. “
The London-based church has long been targeted by LGBT activist groups and some journalists for refusing to bow to secular views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and sexual orientation.
Following the backlash from LGBT activists and Labor Party members identifying as LGBT or allies, Starmer said he regretted his decision to visit the church.
On Monday, Starmer said he accepted critics’ claims that his visit to the church was a “mistake” and emphasized that he was “unaware” of the church’s views on sexuality.
Starmer issued an apology on Twitter, saying: “I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT + rights, which I was unaware of prior to my visit. I apologize for the damage my visit caused and have removed the video. It was a mistake and I accept it. “
In 2006, the church’s senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, joined more than 250 clergymen in signing a letter expressing their concerns with the then Labor Party’s “Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations)”, which they considered as “christianophobia”.
The letter, published in The Telegraph at the time, read in part:
“We write as pastors on behalf of tens of thousands of black British Christians. Many members of our London congregations left their home countries to come to England and experience the freedom to live up to their Christian beliefs in a Christian Democrat country … The regulations oblige Christians in churches, businesses, charities and informal associations to accept and even promote the idea that homosexuality equals heterosexuality. “
Starmer’s apology came after The Labor Campaign for LGBT + Rights released a statement describing Jesus House as “a church well known for its connections to conversion therapy and generally anti-LGBT + views. “. The group noted that Starmer characterized the Jesus House as a “wonderful example of a church serving its community” and criticized his visit to the church as “unacceptable.”
The Labor Campaign for LGBT + Rights stated that “at a minimum, the video [de Starmer] must be removed, and the Leader of the Opposition himself must present a public apology. “They added:” We all still believe that the surest way to achieve LGBT + equality is through the Labor Party, but the events of the last few days have pushed back that cause. “
Following Starmer’s apology, the group thanked the Labor Party leader for removing the video and apologizing for visiting the church: “We are pleased that you have recognized this mistake. … “
While Starmer’s apology received praise from LGBT activist groups, it received criticism from those across the hall. Brendan O’Neill, the editor of Spiked, wrote an op-ed for the Spectator titled “Starmer was wrong to apologize for visiting Jesus’ home.”
According to O’Neill, “The Christians at Jesus House are nothing more than guilty of having traditional Christian beliefs.” He suggested that a Guardian headline titled “Keir Starmer criticized for church visit where pastor opposed same-sex marriage” could also read “Starmer criticized for visiting a Christian church that adheres to Christian doctrine.” .
“This is Crazy. During Easter I also visited a church that opposes same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Vatican reiterated that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions. sex, because God ‘can’t bless sin.’ So should Starmer never visit a Catholic institution either? “O’Neill asked.
“By apologizing for visiting Christians who have biblical beliefs about homosexuality, Starmer has insulted a large number of people. 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 does not agree with his views on same-sex issues. Turning your back on good people because they disagree with you on sexual or social matters.
it is also a kind of dogmatism. “
Starmer is not the first politician to face criticism for visiting the Jesus House. Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stopped by the church to examine “the incredible work that vaccination teams are doing … bringing in people from the Brent Cross area.” He documented his appearance at the House of Jesus on Facebook, crediting “the efforts of people like you here at the House of Jesus today” for helping vaccinate 21 million UK residents.
As reported by The Daily Mirror, Johnson’s press secretary, Allegra Johnson, defended her church trip as a “profitable visit where she was able to meet with black community leaders and work to increase vaccine acceptance and deal with vacillation from vaccines “. He also stressed that “this is a government that is fully committed to promoting LGBT rights and defending equality.”
In 2017, Theresa May, who at the time was serving as Prime Minister and is still a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party, visited the church, praising it “as one of the fastest growing churches in the UK”. In response to criticism for visiting the church, a Conservative Party spokesperson touted May’s “strong record on LGBT + equality” and commitment to “advance equality for LGBT + people at home and abroad.”
Public opinion polls have indicated that the overwhelming majority of UK residents support same-sex marriage, which was legalized in 2014. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted between 2015 and 2017, 77% of people The British are in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry. For comparison, support for same-sex marriage has reached 68% in the US, according to a survey published by the Public Religion Research Institute earlier this year.