Keir Starmer apologises for visit to ‘homophobic’ church

Sir Keir said he ‘completely disagreed’ with the church’s stance on LGBT rights (Picture: PA)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has apologised after paying an Easter visit to a church described as ‘rampantly homophobic’.

After criticism of a video showing his visit to Jesus House in Brent Cross, north London, on Friday, he tweeted he had removed it.

Sir Keir said: ‘I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit.

‘I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.’

The Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights had previously said the video was ‘unacceptable’.

After raising it with the leader’s office, the group said that it had received an ‘unreserved apology’ and would be holding a further meeting to ensure it did not happen again.

Jesus House church in Brent Cross, London (Picture: Google Maps)

In the video, Sir Keir praised Jesus House as a ‘wonderful example’ of a church serving its community during the coronavirus pandemic – including acting as a vaccination centre.

‘From rolling out the vaccine to running the local food bank, Jesus House, like many other churches across the UK, has played a crucial role in meeting the needs of the community,’ he said.

In a now deleted tweet, he previously said: ‘I recently visited @JesusHouseUK to hear about their crucial work in the community. Churches across the country have played such a vital role in the fight against the virus.I hope everyone has a good, restful and safe Easter weekend.’

The church’s senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, has attracted controversy for his comments on LGBT+ rights – having spoken out against same sex marriage and equality legislation.

In 2017, Theresa May was criticised when she visited the church, although Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales have both been to the pop-up vaccination centre there in recent weeks without attracting widespread comment.

Labour sources said Sir Keir’s visit was also focused on the vaccination centre – although the video did show him apparently praying with the pastor.

A Labour spokeswoman said the party was ‘unwavering’ in its support for the LGBT+ community.

In a statement, the Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights said: ‘The visit was unacceptable and we made this clear to LOTO (the Leader of the Opposition’s office).’

‘We received an unreserved apology, and will be urgently meeting with them next week to ensure this does not happen again and that LGBT+ equality is embedded in everything that Labour does.’

Labour-supporting writer and activist Owen Jones, who is gay, previously tweeted: ‘A very quick google search would have revealed that Theresa May was condemned for visiting this rampantly homophobic church.

‘Unless the Labour leadership wants to make it clear it doesn’t care about LGBTQ people, it needs to apologise.’

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