The European Parliament Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights has condemned the actions of Roman Catholic leaders in Latvia.

Over the weekend the Cardinal, Janis Pujats, and more than two dozen priests released a letter to the Latvian government claiming that Pride marches are illegal.

“First of all, they are aimed against morality and the family model which exists in our nation and is enshrined in the fundamental law of the state, the Constitution,” the letter stated.

“Second, homosexuality is against the natural order and, therefore, against the laws of God.

“Third, homosexuals also claim unlawfully to have the rights of a minority.

“A minority is made up of those who are different from the majority of people because of nationality, language, race, skin colour and other neutral characterisations, but not of moral evaluation.

“That means that there can be no minority of alcoholics, homosexuals, drug addicts or any other people if the minority is based on immoral inclinations.

“Otherwise this would be direct promotion of immorality.”

The Cardinal suggested that gay people congregate in a hotel or somewhere out of sight.

He also condemned “foreigners” which presumably includes EU citizens, “who are so full of bravado, to think about the fact that they have no right to publicly propagandise perversion in Latvia and expect that this shameful behaviour is even protected by the police. This is humiliation to law enforcement officials.”

A gay Pride march is scheduled to take place on Saturday in Riga, the Latvian capital.

MEPs from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights condemned the Cardinal.

“The signatories to the letter show a blatant disregard for human rights as expressed in the European Convention of Human Rights,” said Michael Cashman, an MEP for the West Midlands and President of the Intergroup.

“They also show an appalling and worrying ignorance of EU treaties and legislation. They should not interfere in a democratic state which abides by the rule of law.

“It is up to governments to govern and up to the clergymen to preach unto those who believe as they do.

“They are entitled to their views and opinions, but must not be allowed to use their beliefs to diminish the human rights and civil liberties of others.

“I send my love and support to those taking part in the Equality March. They are my heroes and warriors.”

In the past year Cardinal Janis Pujats has called for gay people to be banned from politics and claimed that homosexuality is a form of prostitution.

Last April Christian groups in Latvia welcomed fundamentalist US preachers and to the country and talked tactics about opposing gay rights.

A meeting organised by Janis Vanags, Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church, was attended by Cardinal Pujats and representatives of the Orthodox, Penecostals and other Christian groups.

They were addressed by Kenneth Hutcherson, who runs a ‘super-church’ in Seattle and is a vehement opponent of gay rights.

He told the Latvians that homosexuality was spreading rapidly, and that the “gay lobby” had increasing political influence across the world.

“We need to do everything to ensure that even in the European Union it does not lose its principles.

“It is a holy right of any nation to decide in what society to live,” he told the assembled crowd, which included senior MPs.

Latvia joined the EU in 2004.