A meeting was held in south London last night by the Protest the Pope campaign committee. During the meeting, reasons for protesting the pontiff’s visit next month were discussed.

Issues outlined by the 70-strong crowd included the Pope’s opinions on condom use, abortion, gay rights and education.

Speakers at the meeting included human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson, European Humanist Federation president and British Humanist Association trustee David Pollock and NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood.

The meeting was organised by Richmond LGBT Forum with a view to forming a local coalition of groups wishing to protest when the Pope visits Twickenham on 17 September to address local school children.

Peter Tatchell said, “Pope Benedict comes to Britain next month. As democrats, we believe he has every right to come here and express his opinions. But we also have a right to protest against his often harsh, extreme views. We have a right to say that he is not welcome here.

“The Protest the Pope campaign is calling on the British government to disassociate itself from the Pope’s intolerant teachings on issues such as women’s rights, gay equality and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. On these and many other issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including most Catholics.”

The Protest the Pope campaign say they believe that “as a head of state, the Pope is an unsuitable guest of the UK government and should not be accorded the honour and recognition of a state visit to our country.”

Pope Benedict’s visit this September will be the first papal state visit to Britain. Pope John Paul II’s 1982 six-day tour of the UK was a pastoral visit, and was not at the invitation of the UK government.