Belfast Primark fire was 'act of God' for LGBT window display - pastor defiant over claims
A controversial preacher who worked as a security guard at the Belfast Primark store has been branded "despicable" for saying the blaze was "an act of God".
Pastor Colin Houston told Sunday Life he believed the fire was "not a coincidence" as it came just a month after the store had a pro-LGBT display in its front window for Pride week.
Last night, the former Ulster Unionist Party council candidate defended a post on Twitter in which he said the inferno "was an act of God".
But gay Belfast UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon slammed his remarks as "despicable" and said he would be "better keeping his thoughts to himself". The landmark 118-year-old listed building in the heart of the city centre has been left a smouldering ruin after a fire ripped through it on Tuesday last week.
Hundreds of jobs at the store, one of the busiest in the city, have been put at risk and it's still not known if the facade of the building can be saved.
Mr Houston, who has appeared on the Nolan shows on TV and radio, told Sunday Life: "God is not mocked, they had two windows exploiting this and telling people to come in and buy their clothes.
"You can't tell me that is a coincidence, many years ago I worked in it as a security guard for a number of years so I understand that everybody loves it, that it was a great shop.
"But once you go down that line, that you show your window off and use it as a political stunt to try to get custom, that's not the right way to live."
Mr Houston (right), who once stood for the UUP in a local election, is currently serving a 30-day ban from Facebook for a post about an LGBT event in Belfast.
He refused to accept that his remarks may be hurtful to members of the LGBT community.
"Why would it be hurtful? I'm a minister, 26 years ago somebody said to me that I was living the wrong way," he said.
"I carried on living the way I wanted to live but I realised it was not a fruitful lifestyle, so I changed my lifestyle, it might be hurtful at the time but it's the truth.
"They can choose whatever way they want to live but there's consequences, when you mock God, God does not just sit back and watch.
"He holds hands back for so long then what happens is he turns round and shows you, he's not doing it to harm them but to show them this is not the right way to go."
Mr Houston stressed that though he believes homosexuality to be wrong, it was people's right to live that way without fear of violence or persecution.
Last night, Mr Dudgeon, who took a landmark case to the European Court of Human Rights which led to the decriminalising of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, said his remarks were "mindless".
"It's pretty obvious that it's a despicable remark," he said.
"You could say 1,000 things criticising it. Blaming every catastrophe on somebody's sins, where do you stop? Whose sins brought down the Titanic?
"It's just unconvincing. It would be better if they kept their thoughts to themselves."
Pastor Houston was one of several Christian fundamentalists who took to social media to claim the Primark fire was God's revenge for the company's promotion of Belfast Pride.
Fermanagh man Wesley Rutledge posted on Facebook on Thursday: "We have seen the judgment hand of God in this mighty fire and devastation.
"It sends a clear message to the business and retail community of Belfast and Northern Ireland that God is not mocked.
"Don't think that you can flaunt and promote the sodomy of gay pride in the faces of the population and society in general and think that you'll get off with it... You were warned before the fire that God is not pleased."
And Magherafelt man William Brown closed his Facebook page after he received a barrage of criticism and personal abuse over a post in which he claimed the Primark fire was God's wrath. Mr Brown later posted a message saying he wanted his Facebook page closed as he no longer felt safe on the site.