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‘Rein in DUP homophobes’

By Liam Clarke

Peter Robinson has been called on to intervene after one of his Stormont ministers described homosexuality as "immoral" at a public meeting.

It is the second time in a week that a politician has criticised homosexuality.

A leading clergyman has asked to meet Nelson McCausland, the Social Development Minister, and said he risked giving Christianity a bad name.

Speaking at the West Belfast Festival earlier this week, Mr McCausland said: "I do not personally believe that homosexual behaviour is in keeping with what I believe are good moral standards."

He was fielding questions on earlier comments by party colleague Jim Wells, who is due to take over as minister in 2013.

Mr Wells had texted the organiser of the Belfast Pride parade to say he found those taking part to be "repugnant" and that he did not want to be associated with them.

Mr Wells had been billed to attend the festival, but was replaced by Mr McCausland.

Joanna Cowley, who works in schools to combat homophobic bullying, said DUP leaders needed to make a statement condemning the remarks.

She said: "I'd welcome any kind of statement from Peter Robinson that would refute the harmful and cruel remarks made by people claiming to be speaking as Christians."

Ms Cowley said that comments made by Mr McCausland would undermine the mental health of vulnerable young people and make her job more difficult.

Colin Flinn, the facilitator of the Gay Helpine, said: "It is all very well for people to say they are only expressing their beliefs, but when these sorts of nasty comments are made we are left to deal with the fallout through our helplines and counselling services. It is deeply isolating for young people."

Mr Flinn revealed he had been meeting privately with DUP politicians to encourage a more sensitive approach.

Rev Chris Hudson, the minister of All Souls Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church in south Belfast, said he would be contacting Mr McCausland and asking to meet him.

"He is misrepresenting the real Christian message which is one of inclusiveness and love. This is the sort of thing that can give Christians a bad name," Rev Hudson said.

Background

Nelson McCausland is no stranger to controversy. Last year, when he was Culture Minister, he asked museums to give more prominence to Ulster-Scots, the Orange Order and alternative views on the origin of the universe.

He wrote to the trustees of National Museums Northern Ireland saying he wanted the issues given consideration in the short-term. H

e said that he wanted the views of creationists - the belief of God creating the universe as opposed to the scientific theory of evolution - to be represented in the exhibitions.

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