Anger over Elton John's claim that Jesus was a gay man
ELTON John was last night facing a furious backlash from conservative Christian groups in Britain and the US after claiming that Jesus was gay.
The 62-year-old music legend also opened up to US magazine 'Parade' about the "life-threatening downside" of fame and his relationship with partner David Furnish.
But it was his views on Jesus's sexuality that sparked headlines across the world.
In the interview, which is to be published in America tomorrow, Sir Elton said: "I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent, gay man who understood human problems.
"On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don't know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East -- you're as good as dead."
Stephen Green, director of a British organisation, Christian Voice, described the gay claim as "rubbish".
He said: "The Bible says Jesus was without sin and that rules out homosexuality. This is a desperate cry for attention."
Mike Judge of the Christian Institute dismissed the star's views, saying: "Had a senior political figure made these comments, I would have had an opinion. But this is Elton John and I don't think anybody takes him seriously."
However, gay Christian groups acknowledged that Sir Elton, who is often pictured wearing a crucifix, had reopened the debate on homosexuality and its relationship to Christianity.
Jeremy Marks, founder and director of Courage, a Christian organisation for gays and lesbians, said: "None of us know or will ever know what Jesus's sexuality was.
"Certainly, people's perceptions of relationships between men, and between men and women, were different then and would be unrecognisable today."
John Blowers, co-convener of the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians, said: "What tends to happen on each occasion this debate is reopened is that it becomes more polarised.
"The simple fact is that we are all God's children."
Sir Elton's comments were made in a wide ranging interview headlined, "There's A Lot Of Hate In The World".
He also told the magazine that for him, fame and celebrity had lost their appeal.
"Princess Diana, Gianni Versace, John Lennon, Michael Jackson -- all dead," he said.
"Two of them shot outside their houses. None of this would have happened if they hadn't been famous.
"Fame attracts lunatics. I never had a bodyguard, ever, until Gianni died. I don't like celebrity any more."
The singer-songwriter also revealed how he and civil partner Mr Furnish keep their love strong.
He said: "Every Saturday for 16 years, we've sent each other a card, no matter where we are in the world, to say how much we love each other.
"We've never been jealous. We talk about the sexual side -- things that normally would have frightened me before."
Sir Elton also spoke about his troubled relationship with drugs, saying: "For some people, a gramme of cocaine can last a month. Not me. I have to do the lot and then I want more.
"At the end of the day, all it led to was heartache."