Paisley must apologise to gay people or resign, says church paper
PRESSURE was growing last night on Ian Paisley Jnr to apologise or resign as a Stormont minister over his controversial comments about gays and lesbians.
Mr Paisley's position came under renewed threat after the influential weekly newspaper of the Church of Ireland launched a scathing attack, dismissing his remarks as "entirely unacceptable".
In a hard-hitting editorial entitled "Apologise or resign", The Gazette regretted that Mr Paisley had not yet issued an apology for his remarks despite repeated calls to do so.
"His comments are a complete disgrace to the Stormont administration and reflect sheer crassness," the editorial stated.
"Not only should Mr Paisley apologise but, if he cannot, he should resign as a junior minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, the department which is charged with promoting equality in Northern Ireland," it added.
In a Hot Press interview Mr Paisley denied hating gays and lesbians - only "what they do".
He said he thought that "gay and lesbianism" was "wrong" and that homosexual people harmed themselves and, without caring about it, society as well.
The Gazette also regretted that last week on the BBC's 'Let's Talk' programme, Mr Paisley "compounded his offensiveness by saying that expressing regret about his words would be 'the worst thing I could do'".
Gay and lesbian members of the church, as well as those of other religious outlooks, and of none, had every right to feel affronted by Mr Paisley's comments, the Gazette noted.
"If not withdrawn, his words will do nothing to encourage them, or surely any of us, to have confidence in an administration of which he is part."
The editorial recalled that the Church of Ireland bishops, in their pastoral statement of September 2003, had clearly rejected the "demeaning" of homosexuals. Last night Mr Paisley declined to comment on the editorial.
Meanwhile, the new Church of Ireland Bishop of Connor was described as "a team builder" at his consecration in Belfast yesterday.
Bishop Alan Abernethy succeeds Dr Alan Harper, who earlier this year was elected by the House of Bishops as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
"Connor's new bishop is a team builder who shares ministry and allows those around him space to find their own giftings," said the Revd Helen Houston, preacher at the service in St Anne's Cathedral.