A member of the Church of England clergy linked homosexuality to paedophilia in a BBC interview – without being challenged.

The comments came after the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to apologise for the Church’s role in creating anti-gay laws around the world.

Discussing the issue, Radio 4’s Sunday programme interviewed Canon Dr Chris Sugden of evangelical lobbying group Anglican Mainstream.

The campaigner was asked why the Church had not taken a stronger stance against anti-gay laws across the world – but shockingly suggested that his “significant research” shows anti-gay laws actually just protect children from paedophiles.

He said: “There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about this. I have done significant research on this in Africa, and talked to African Christian leaders and legal experts.

“The situation is this – what they are concerned about is the protection of children from grooming.

“It’s not homosexuality, it’s homosexual behaviour… they need to protect children from grooming. In India only last week, there was a bill [to decriminalise gay sex] brought before Parliament which failed to get through – because they want to protect children.”

He is referring to Section 377 of the Indian penal code – a newly reinstated Colonial-era law which bans gay sex. The bill makes no reference to child abuse.

Despite his shocking comments, the campaigner was not corrected or challenged for suggesting that anti-gay laws protect people from paedophiles. He also repeatedly referred to homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice” without being challenged.

He continued: “The one security they have is their families. They have been concerned to protect those, and protect them legally from those who would prey on their children through grooming.”

One listener says they found it “shocking” that the BBC did not speak to clarify that gay people are not paedophiles.

In a complaint to the BBC, they wrote: “I was very surprised and angry that the BBC allowed the persistent claim that homosexuals are paedophiles to go unchallenged on today’s Sunday programme.

“Canon Dr Chris Sugden of Anglican mainstream was asked why the Archbishop of Canterbury has not taken a moral lead in those countries where homosexuality is illegal to ensure that homosexuals are not discriminated against.

“He replied that he had done a lot of research into this issue and had concluded that it was right to outlaw homosexuality because people wanted to protect their children from grooming. He made this point many times without being challenged. His clear implication was that homosexuals are paedophiles.

“Listeners to the programme have been led to believe that homosexuals are paedophiles and that it is right to outlaw homosexuality as a child protection measure. There is no evidence that this is the case and I find this outdated view deeply offensive.”