Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson appears to be sticking by a Christian preacher who has controversial views about Muslims and same-sex marriage.
Last month in a sermon Pastor James McConnell branded Islam “Satanic”.
The Belfast Newsletter reports he added: “It is a heathen religion and it is devilish. I have preached about the Muslims before but I’ve never had a response like that, and I preached on gay marriage a few weeks ago and the return of Sodom.”
Mr Robinson, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, defended the pastor in an interview to the Irish News.
He said that it was a duty of any preacher to denounce what he described as “false prophesy”.
However, following widespread criticism from the Muslim community, the DUP leader claimed last Thursday that he would “never seek” to insult any section of Northern Ireland’s community.
Yesterday, after meeting with Muslim leaders, the First Minister publicly apologised again – although he fell short of condemning Pastor McConnell’s remarks about Islam.
Mr Robinson has previously attended the pastor’s church.
“It is not the role of any politician to give doctrinal opinions,” Mr Robinson said.
“I am not a theologian, I am not in a position to give the view of doctrine.
“People have a right to free speech, but everyone who has that right … they must exercise that right with responsibility, and care.”
Mr Robinson’s claim of not wanting to insult any section of Northern Ireland’s community historically appears not to have included the LGBT community.
In June 2008, Mr Robinson endorsed his wife’s views that gay people could be ‘cured’ of their sexual orientation.
Mr Robinson defended his wife, saying: “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was the Almighty.
“This is the Scriptures and it is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won’t allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views.”
Peter Robinson has also presided over his party’s opposition to LGBT rights during his time as Northern Ireland’s First Minister.
DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots unsuccessfully fought against extending adoption rights to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland and remains in favour of maintaining restrictions on gay men donating blood in the province.
PinkNews has approached the First Minister’s office for comment.