Labour leader Keir Starmer condemned after visit to notoriously homophobic church Jesus House

Keir Starmer risks Labour's LGBT voters by not fighting transphobia

Labour leader Keir Starmer is facing backlash after he visited a notoriously anti-LGBT+ church in London.

Starmer visited Jesus House on Friday (2 April) and shared details of his trip on Twitter, prompting a wave of fury from LGBT+ Labour Party members.

In a video posted to Twitter, Keir Starmer praised Jesus House as a “wonderful example of a church serving their community”.

“It’s been great to meet young people and church leaders here at Jesus House to talk about how to address inequalities and injustices that this crisis has so brutally exposed,” Starmer said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labour leader quickly faced a furious backlash from LGBT+ people, with many drawing attention to Jesus House’s track record of anti-LGBT+ views and actions.

In 2009, Christian website Ekklesia alleged that Jesus House – which is part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God – had carried out “exorcisms” on people who are “sexually attracted to members of their own sex”. Jesus House denied the allegations.

In 2006, Jesus House Pastor Agu Irukwu signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph opposing laws that would protect LGBT+ people from discrimination, saying such regulations would “force Christians in churches, businesses, charities and informal associations to accept and even promote the idea that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality”.

In 2013, Irukwu signed a letter to the Telegraph which claimed “marriage is and always will be distinctively a union between a man and a woman”. The letter said same-sex marriage legislation would “devalue” partnerships between opposite-sex couples.

Furthermore, the Redeemed Christian Church of God has claimed in Sunday school materials that Christians should help gay people “repent” their sexuality and described homosexuality as “a sin” that “needs to be dealt with”.

Labour MP Kate Osborne ‘disappointed’ by Keir Starmer visit to Jesus House

Keir Starmer has faced criticism from Labour members for the visit, with many questioning why he would visit the church when Theresa May faced stinging backlash for a similar incident in 2017.

Labour MP Kate Osborne said she was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“Jesus House have a history of supporting conversion therapy and general intolerance towards LGBT+ people,” she tweeted.

Queer singer-songwriter Grace Petrie said she doesn’t share other people’s faith that the visit was an “accident”, while countless others weighed in with their reactions to the visit.

Alex Beverley, chair of LGBT+ Labour, told PinkNews that Starmer “should not have associated himself with a church connected to conversion therapy” and said the visit was “unacceptable”.

“We will be meeting with the leader’s office next week to ensure mistakes like this are not repeated,” Beverley said.

“As someone who was subjected to conversion therapy, I know how important Labour’s commitment to a ban is, but I also know that actions speaker louder than words. We will continue to demand that LGBT+ equality is embedded into everything the party does.”

LGBT+ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told PinkNews that Starmer’s visit to the church is “a slap in the face to the LGBT+ community, especially Black LGBTs”.

“Labour seems to putting religion before human rights,” Tatchell said. “This apparent bid to appease bigoted churches is outrageous. Keir Starmer needs to make an immediate statement distancing himself and Labour from the homophobia of Jesus House.”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party insisted that it is “unwavering in its support for the LGBT+ community and a woman’s right to access safe abortions”.

The spokesperson said Labour has called on the government to “stop dragging its feet and ban the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy”.

PinkNews has contacted Jesus House for comment.