Theresa May met with a controversial pastor who campaigned against LGBT equality legislation during a church service she attended on Sunday.
The prime minister spoke at a question-and-answer session and met members of the Jesus House church led by pastor Agu Irukwu – a visit that human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told BuzzFeed News is "an insult to black LBGT people".
In 2006, Irukwu was part of a group of pastors who wrote to the Daily Telegraph to express their opposition to the the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations – a piece of legislation that aimed to make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal.
"The latest discrimination against Christians is the new law called the Sexual Orientation Regulations, said to combat the problem of homophobia in Britain," the letter said.
"It alarms us that the Government's only evidence for a problem actually existing is 'accounts in national newspapers'. The regulations force Christians in churches, businesses, charities and informal associations to accept and even promote the idea that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality.
"For the sake of clarity, this is not what the Bible teaches and it is not what we believe to be the truth. In our view, these regulations are an affront to our freedom to be Christians. If the government thinks that we will accept this law lying down, they are mistaken."
Seven years later, in 2013, Irukwu signed another letter to the Daily Telegraph, this time to campaign against gay marriage.
"If the government gets its way, it will not be a victory for equality. Equality requires diversity, and diversity requires distinctiveness, and marriage is and always will be distinctively a union between a man and a woman," the letter said.
"By changing marriage from its historic foundation, it would be creating a legal fiction, and consequently devaluing this vitally important social institution."
Asked about the visit, Peter Tatchell told BuzzFeed News: "Theresa May's calculated decision to visit pastor Agu Irukwu at Jesus House is an insult to black LBGT people.
"This pastor has a long history of opposing LGBT equality, including opposition to same-sex civil marriage and to laws protecting LGBT people against discrimination. His church preaches against the human rights of LGBT people in Africa.
"These teachings fuel prejudice. They contribute to self-hatred and mental ill-health in black African LGBT communities. The prime minister is wrong to fete and appease homophobic Christian extremists."
In 2009 London's then mayor Boris Johnson was criticised for attending a carol service at the Jesus House church.
Tatchell said at the time: "The mayor of a multicultural city should not collude with a preacher who rejects diversity and opposes the human rights of lesbian and gay people. Pastor Agu Irukwu is a divisive character. He divides gay and straight Londoners."
A Conservative spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "As Pastor Agu said himself in his sermon on Sunday, ‘we are called to love all, irrespective of the person's ethnicity, the person's background, the person's sexual orientation’.
"Theresa May has a strong record on LGBT+ equality, and has been clear that under her leadership, we remain committed to advancing equality for LGBT+ people at home and abroad.
"It's not for the Government to tell people what to believe. The law is clear – discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity is unacceptable."
Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Marie Le Conte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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