Devon newspaper editor denies ‘gays will destroy society’ column was incitement of hatred

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The editor of a Devon newspaper has denied claims that publishing an anti-gay column was hate speech, saying “the only incitement of hatred was directed towards me” from angered readers.

The original remarks were made in the South Molton News by an anonymous columnist known as ‘Grave Turner’.

In the column, he claimed that homosexuality is an “aberration”, and that it is “worth recalling” that homosexuality used to be criminalised.”

These comments were condemned by Stephen Gilbert MP, Devon MP Sir Nick Harvey, Ex-Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, and Senior Tory MP Sarah Wollaston.

The South Molton editor, Paul Henderson, has said the column has since prompted 39 email complaints, seven face-to-face complaints, three phone complaints, and one letter.

He even said one “worrying” complaint from the US led him to call the FBI.

Speaking in this month’s edition, Mr Henderson reacted to the controversy.

He said: “The first thing is to apologise unreservedly to anyone who was offended by the content of the September Grave Turner column.

“I have already stated (picked up by the world’s media), the article was very close to the mark in terms of my decision to allow it to be published.

“It’s been claimed the content could be viewed as an ‘incitement to hatred’ by a number of individuals but I fundamentally disagree with those statements.

“We live in a democracy that allows freedom of expression/speech within accepted boundaries.”

He added: “The only incitement of hatred was directed towards me with many posts on these web sites which could never be published in any newspaper.”

In a previous statement to PinkNews, Mr Henderson said: “I’d like to assure you I personally do not share Grave Turner’s views in this particular article.

“If I did, then my nephew whom I’m very close to and who is in a long-term same sex relationship with a rugby player wouldn’t forgive me and neither would my own children as they care for him deeply.”

Last month, the South Molton News invited PinkNews reporter Nick Duffy to submit a reply for this month’s issue of the paper.

Mr Duffy said: “As Mr Grave Turner can’t stomach the thought of ‘coming out’ by putting his name to his own words, he can’t begin to understand the struggle of the teenagers coming to terms with being what he terms ‘an aberration’.

“A column like Mr Grave Turner’s doesn’t just perpetuate tired old stereotypes about gay people, it feeds the bigotry that makes our towns, our neighbourhoods and even our families less safe.”