Elton John facing backlash over 'Jesus was gay' claims
Flamboyant pop star Elton John is facing a backlash from conservative Christian groups after stating in an interview that Jesus was a gay man.
The 62-year-old musician also opened up to US magazine Parade about the "life-threatening downside" of fame and his relationship with partner David Furnish.
But it's the Rocket Man's views on Jesus's sexuality which have sparked headlines across the world.
In the interview, to be published in America on Saturday, Sir Elton said: "I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.
"On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don't know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East - you're as good as dead."
Stephen Green, director of Christian Voice, described the gay claim as "rubbish".
He said: "The Bible says Jesus was without sin and that rules out homosexuality. This is a desperate cry for attention."
Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, dismissed the star's views, saying: "Had a senior political figure made these comments, I would have had an opinion. But this is Elton John and I don't think anybody takes him seriously."
Gay Christian groups acknowledged Sir Elton, who is often pictured wearing a crucifix, had reopened debate on homosexuality and the church.
Jeremy Marks, founder and director of Courage, a Christian organisation for Gays and Lesbians, said: "None of us know and will never know what Jesus's sexuality was. Certainly people's perceptions of relationships between men, and men and women, were different then and would be unrecognisable today. I think he is explaining how he sees Jesus in his life and wants to encourage other people to see that too."