Two American fundamentalist Christians have been excluded from entering the UK after they threatened to protest in Basingstoke.
Rev Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper are leading members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a small Kansas-based sect.
The group claimed on their website GodHatesFags.com that they would be protesting at a performance of a gay-themed play in Basingstoke tomorrow.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has reportedly excluded them from the country, despite the widespread belief that they had no intention of coming to the UK.
While WBC have conducted hundreds of pickets in the US, they have failed to appear at promised protests in other countries.
“Both these individuals have engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a number of communities,” a UK Border Agency spokesman told The Sun.
“The government has made it clear it opposes extremism in all its forms.
“The exclusions policy is targeted at all those who seek to stir up tension and provoke others to violence regardless of their origins and beliefs.”
Other members of WBC will also be excluded.
Pressure to ban the WBC came from various groups, include LGBT Labour. LGBT Labour co-chair Simon Wright said:
“This is great news and it shows the Labour Government takes homophobia very seriously.
“We are very pleased that the Home Secretary has barred these preachers of homophobic hatred from our country.
“It sends a strong message that homophobia, like other forms of hatred, are not welcome in the UK.”
Earlier this month the Home Office banned a Dutch MP who is critical of Islam from entering the UK because it was judged he would harm community relations.
WBC responded on their website:
“You British Bastards will not have Jesus Christ to rule over you, and think you can issue bans and pass laws to remove God’s word from the landscape.
“You do greatly err, not knowing the power of God; and, you do that against your own interests. It is a great kindness to have God’s prophets in your land.
“But, you ungrateful brutes despise knowledge. It is too late for the UK. God Hates You! God’s wrath and destruction is all that’s left for you, thanks to Secretary Smith.”
The church members, who are mostly relations of Mr Phelps, regularly picket funerals claiming the deaths are God’s punishment for the country’s support of homosexuals.
They have caused so much distress picketing at funerals of soldiers killed in action that they have been restricted from doing so in 22 American states.
The group first came to prominence more than a decade ago when they protested a the funeral of murdered gay man Matthew Shepard.
In October 1998 Matthew was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming.
Five weeks later members of the Tectonic Theatre Project went to Laramie, and over the course of the next year, conducted more than 200 interviews with people of the town.
From these interviews they wrote the play The Laramie Project, a chronicle of the life of the town in the year after the murder. WBC claimed that a student production tomorrow night in Basingstoke was to be the target of WBC’s first UK protest.