Conservative Party leader David Cameron has given his support to a Tory candidate accused of trying to “cure” gay people.

Philippa Stroud, the Conservative candidate likely to win the Sutton and Cheam seat at this week’s general election, founded a church that purported to “cure” gay and trans people through exorcising their “demons” through prayer, it was claimed this weekend.

Mrs Stroud said in a statement that she does not believe homosexuality is an illness, although she refused to comment on whether she believed homosexuality could be cured through prayer.

Mr Cameron told the BBC’s Asian Network today that Mrs Stroud was not homophobic.

He said: “She believes in gay equality.”

He added that Mrs Stroud had made “a very clear statement to say she was completely misreported”.

Her statement, released on Sunday, said: “The idea that I am prejudiced against gay people is both false and insulting.

“I make no apology for being a committed Christian.

“However it is categorically untrue that I believe homosexuality to be an illness, and I am deeply offended that the Observer has suggested otherwise.”

When PinkNews.co.uk pointed out to her spokesman that he Observer’s prime claim was not that she believed homosexuality to be an illness and instead that she appeared to believe it could be overcome through prayer and removing “demons”, he said: “We will not be adding to or subtracting to [sic] the statement.”

Mrs Stroud runs the Centre for Social Justice, a right of centre think tank founded by Iain Duncan Smith when he lost his position as leader of the Conservative Party. Through the centre, Mr Smith claims to have formulated over 70 of Mr Cameron’s family policies.

The claims about her follow criticism of the Conservative Party for gay gaffes made by several of its candidates.