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Councillor calls for pastor to be deported, denied services after celebrating cancellation of pride event

by Tola Mbakwe

A Labour councillor in Newquay has written to the Home Secretary urging her to deport a pastor who welcomed the cancellation of an LGBTQ+ pride event in a social media post. 

Councillor Stephen Hick asked for Pastor Josh Williamson, who's originally from Australia, to be investigated and branded him a hate preacher.

He wrote: "Josh Williamson's ministry has caused harm to members of the community of Newquay and the wider LGBTQ+ community across Cornwall.

"I believe his continued presence, preaching the hate that he does, presents a continuing harm to the same communities.

"I am unaware of the previous ministry of this particular church, but a foreign preacher travelling to the UK to promote and potentially act upon extremist views should be treated with the utmost seriousness - using an established institution to promote such views is of course one of the PREVENT criteria."

Pastor Williamson, 34, of Newquay Baptist Church, has been bashed online for saying the upcoming 'Cornwall Pride' event being cancelled was "wonderful news", in a social media post. 

After being invited to a meeting with members of the Cornwall Pride team, Pastor Williamson also handed them a leaflet about what the Bible says about homosexuality.

There have been threats on social media to burn down his church. Devon and Cornwall Police also told the pastor to keep his views to a "safe environment".

In addition to the letter to the Home Secretary, Mr Hick also told local newspaper Newquay Voice that locals should deny Pastor Williamson services. 

"I call on every individual and business within Newquay to deny him and his church the ability to spread their odious message. Do not interact with them, do not allow them to use your premises, do not accept their message," he said. 

Michael Phillips from legal group Christian Concern, which is supporting Phillips, told Premier his statement encourages people to violate the law. 

"The Equality Act in 2010 said that you cannot discriminate against people on the basis of protected characteristics and one protected characteristic is your faith, religion and belief," he said. 

"If, for example, you go into a hall and asked to rent it, and they say, 'No, I'm so sorry, you can't do that because of your belief', potentially they have committed an offense, which can be brought to action in the court."

Phillips added: "What is happening there is rather typical of what we're seeing generally in our culture whereby if somebody has a disagreement with another person, rather than just saying, 'I don't agree with you, what you're saying is a load of nonsense', which is perfectly reasonable, acceptable, and is the bedrock of democracy, people are now saying not only should you disagree with them on Twitter or Facebook or on the street, but also you should stop providing them services. 

"This is what's being called the cancel culture and it is just absolutely frightening for people that they cannot express their opinions about certain issues and beliefs without fear of being deprived of goods and services. It really in a democratic society is not the way that we should be behaving."

Pastor Williamson responded to Mr Hicks' letter and statement to the newspaper saying: "We will not bow to his anti-Christian hatred and his racism. He can bully all he wants, but bullies should not be surrendered to. By God's grace we will keep proclaiming Christ even though this man engages in hate speech."

In a statement to Premier, Mr Hick maintained he was not discriminating against Pastor Williamson for his religious beliefs. 

"My stand against the teachings of Mr Williamson are based solely around his persistent claims that homosexuality is a sin and that "there's no such thing as a gay Christian" and I do seek to deny Mr Williamson the ability to spread this message in my community," he said. 

"I am not anti-Christian or anti-faith in general and many of the Christian congregations in Newquay and Cornwall have condemned Mr Williamson's words. The annual Cornwall Pride parade is joined by clergy from many of the churches in Newquay and our Parish C of E church proudly flies the rainbow flag across the Pride weekend.

"A Minister of religion is free as are we all to hold any belief, they are not entitled either morally or legally to denigrate people as sinners because of their innate characteristics, that's as ludicrous as calling someone a sinner simply for being born either a man or a woman for example.

"Churches and their congregations form a large part of the wonderful, vibrant, loving community of Newquay of which I am part and proud to represent. If anyone criticises that members of that wonderful community simply for being who they are I will speak out against them. I am not discriminating against anyone for their beliefs but I am defending people against others who use those beliefs to denigrate members of this community."

Listen to Premier's full interview with Michael Phillips here:

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