Comment: Why has Philippa Stroud not denied she believes homosexuality is caused by demonic possession?
Four days have gone by since The Observer published allegations that Philippa Stroud, the Conservative candidate for Sutton and Cheam, founded two churches that helped people who believed their homosexuality was caused by demonic possession and that it could be overcome through prayer. Four days in which PinkNews.co.uk has repeatedly asked Mrs Stroud to deny the allegations, four days in which she has failed to do so.
Yesterday, PinkNews.co.uk revealed that solicitors representing Philippa Stroud have contacted a number of media organisations warning them of their duties not to publish “false” allegations about a parliamentary candidate in the run-up to tomorrow’s general election. Her lawyers refer to Section 106 of the Representation of the Peoples’ Act which makes it illegal to publish any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct, unless the publication can show that they had reasonable grounds for believing that statement to be true.
The letter was accompanied with the same statement that Mrs Stroud has been issuing since Sunday: “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….The idea that I am prejudiced against gay people is both false and insulting.”
Mrs Stroud has repeatedly denied an allegation that has not been levelled at her. The Observer never claimed that she believed homosexuality is an illness, nor that she is or was prejudiced against gay people. The Observer published testimony from a trans teenager who claims to have been sent to Mrs Stroud’s church because her parents believed she was possessed by a demon. It also published testimony from a former administrator who claimed that Mrs Stroud’s church believed homosexuality was caused by a “demon in you”.
Why hasn’t Mrs Stroud denied these allegations? Why has David Cameron defended her by stating that she is not homophobic but not denying her alleged beliefs?
If she is elected by the voters of Sutton and Cheam today, Mrs Stroud can not dodge this question forever. PinkNews.co.uk will ask her Parliamentary office every day to clarify her beliefs.
If she does indeed believe homosexuality is caused by demonic possession it should not bar her from office. Many Christians hold similar views; it is in the dogma of some Catholic and evangelical Anglican churches. Some Jews and Muslims hold similar views too. Former and current government ministers also hold similar beliefs. She has never been accused of homophobia nor of discriminating against gay people in her church or in her role in politics.
What Mrs Stroud must do is come clean, set the record straight and either confirm or deny the allegations. Then the story can go away and she can be judged on her well-respected record of fighting for the poor and her positive influences on Conservative policy in this area.
More: General Election 2010