A Labour MP has said that a Church of England cleric who made homophobic comments on his blog “should know better.”

Rev Peter Mullen apologised after it emerged that he had called for gay men to have health warnings tattooed on their bodies.

He claimed he was joking, but admitted he had caused offence after pressure from the Bishop of London.

Now Ashok Kumar has condemned Rev Mullen in a letter to the Northern Echo. The vicar writes a column for the paper, which he has retained despite his homophobic blog postings.

“At a time when homophobic bullying in our schools is rife and gay boys are three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexuals, someone in a position of influence and authority should know better,” the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland wrote.

“It is no coincidence that homophobic hate crime often increases after a public figure makes ill-judged, anti-gay comments.

“I acknowledge that Mr Mullen repeated an apology in his recent column, but this was insufficient and wholly inadequate and did little to convince me he doesn’t harbour offensive prejudices which he tries to hide under a mask of humour and his religious beliefs.

“Defending his comments by saying that he was simply making a joke misses the point completely.

“As someone who has fought racism throughout my political life, I am proud to say that someone making openly racist comments would not be allowed to continue writing a column in a well-respected newspaper that has always taken a stand against oppression and discrimination.”

Rev Mullen wrote on his blog:

“Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS.”

His blog entries have now been deleted.

In others he called gay people an unnatural perversion and wrote a poem about the blessing of the civil partnership of two gay priests in which he used derogatory language.

The 66-year-old, rector of St Michael’s Cornhill and St Sepulchre without Newgate in the City, is a traditionalist who is hostile to women priests.

After being summoned to a meeting with Diocese of London officials to explain his homophobic outbursts, Rev Mullen said:

“I did not intend to cause offence when I made some joking remarks about homosexuals. I was not actually meaning to criticise individual homosexual persons, but the promoters of gay culture.

“However, my remarks have caused offence and for this I am sorry and make a full and complete apology.”