Religious protests permitted at Belfast Pride

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Belfast’s Parades Commission has said that no restrictions will be placed on protests against the city’s Pride march.

The event, expected to attract up to 15,000 people, will be held on Saturday July 31st and is targeted every year by anti-gay demonstrators from Sandown Free Presbyterian Church.

Last year, they picketed the parade by turning their backs and bowing their heads as revellers passed.

In previous years, their protests have been more active. In 2006, they infiltrated the march, handing out leaflets with extracts from the Bible.

The church is a regular feature at public events, having targeted St George’s Market last week for opening on a Sunday.

A Parades Commission spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: “We respect the views of those who are organising the Pride parade and those who wish to express their opposition.

“Just as with any other parade where there is disagreement the commission believes it is paramount that all concerned treat each other with respect and show tolerance towards the views of wider society. We welcome the assurances we have received in regard to the stewarding of the parade and the desire of the organisers to host a welcoming event.”

A Belfast Pride spokesman told “It’s a non-story. This year, we’re trying to avoid mentioning the protest, they happen everywhere.

“Pride’s opinion is that everyone is welcome to their own views.”

However, he added that the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church may find itself protesting at nothing.

He said: “The route isn’t decided yet. It depends on natural gas works. They may have finished now so we can return to the old route. Legally speaking, they [the church] have to stay where they applied to. They’ll be fenced in.

“If we get the route back to where it was, we’ll bypass them completely.”

The spokesman refuted reports that 70 church members picketed last year’s march, saying it was “more like ten”.