Labour leader Keir Starmer finally apologises for Easter visit to notoriously homophobic church

Keir Starmer

Labour leader Keir Starmer has finally apologised after making an Easter visit to notoriously homophobic church Jesus House in London.

The leader of the opposition has faced blistering criticism since sharing a social media video of his visit to the Barnet-based church on Friday (2 April).

Starmer described Jesus House as a “wonderful example” of a church serving its local community amid the coronavirus pandemic.

To LGBT+ people, however, the church is a place with a troubling track record on LGBT+ rights and whose pastor is one of marriage equality’s most outspoken opponents.

There had been a growing chorus of calls for Starmer to apologise since he made the ill-fated visit. They culminated earlier this afternoon (5 April) when the party’s LGBT+ arm, LGBT+ Labour, demanded the leader publicly say he was sorry.

Taking to Twitter at the convenient time of 9.09pm, Keir Starmer finally explained he was “not aware” of the church’s relentlessly anti-LGBT+ beliefs until after his visit.

“I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit,” he tweeted.

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

It appears that neither Starmer nor a single member of his team thought to undertake a rudimentary Google search for the church and its hateful beliefs.

If they had, they would have learned that Jesus House is part of the international Redeemed Christian Church of God network, a pentecostal denomination founded in Lagos, Nigeria.

The group was accused in 2009 of carrying out “exorcisms” on people who are “sexually attracted to members of their own sex” – claims the church denied.

A Google search by the usually-forensic Keir Starmer or a member of his team would’ve also revealed that the church’s pastor, Agu Irukwu, frequently signed letters opposing advances in LGBT+ rights, from anti-discrimination laws to marriage equality.

In fact, in 2006, Irukwu pledged his name to a letter insisting laws that would protect LGBT+ people from discrimination would “force Christians in churches, businesses, charities and informal associations to accept and even promote the idea that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality”.

LGBT-inclusive churches serving their community during the coronavirus pandemic are also available.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting with baited breath for prime minister Boris Johnson to apologise for referring to gay people as “tank-topped bum boys“. He first made the comment in a 1998 Telegraph column about the gay MP Peter Mandelson’s resignation from cabinet. It’s been 23 years.