An Anglican vicar in south-west London says homosexuality can be given up just like “cigarettes or drugs.”

The Rev Peter Ratcliff, of St John’s Church of England (Continuing) in Colliers Wood, made the bizarre remarks as he defended US Christian preacher Tony Miano, who was arrested earlier this month in Wimbledon for making a homophobic street sermon.

The Wimbledon Guardian reports Rev Ratcliff said: “His YouTube video shows his entire speech and he was in no way inciting violence toward anybody.

“If anybody should be charged with hate it is his accuser who appears to have sworn at him.

“In the USA there are now groups of ex-homosexuals who have been able to repent of homosexuality in the way that one might for example give up cigarettes or drugs.

“I call upon Merton police to publicly apologise for such high handed use of the law and for allowing themselves to be manipulated by homosexuals who are evidently trying to silence those who not merely have Biblical and moral objections to homosexuality but are proclaiming the way of eternal life through Jesus Christ to all people regardless of their present circumstances.”

Mr Miano was arrested under Section 5 of the Public Order Act following a complaint.

The government gave its support to removing the controversial law, which has been used by lawyers to prosecute both homophobic religious preachers and gay rights campaigners, in January.

Section 5 has previously been used against a student who joked that a police horse was gay, a pensioner who said that religious beliefs were fairy stories, a separate street preacher who criticised homosexuality as immoral and a youth who condemned Scientology as a dangerous cult.

Writing for PinkNews.co.uk on Wednesday, journalist and human rights campaigner Adrian Tippetts said it was wrong of the police to arrest Mr Miano and that it is better to challenge bigotry than to censor it.

Mr Miano was released without charge.