Councillor won’t be punished for sharing memes claiming gays are ‘worthy of death’
A councillor will face no action for anti-LGBT posts on his social media.
Richard Smith is a town councillor in Ferryhill, a small town in County Durham which has a population of around 9,000 people.
The local politician, who is also a preacher at the Immanuel Christian Fellowship, has insisted he will stay on as a councillor after local drag artist Tess Tickle highlighted his history of anti-LGBT social media posts – though he gave up the title of Mayor.
Among the posts shared by Smith are a video from a fundamentalist Christian activist Elizabeth Johnston, known as the ‘Activist Mommy’, ranting about the “sin of homosexuality” and calling gay people an “abomination”.
Further investigation by PinkNews uncovered more posts by Smith, including one video that interspersed footage of gay Pride events with anti-gay Bible verses – overlaying footage from an explosion at an alleged ‘gay Pride party’ with a Bible verse that states men who “burn in their lust one toward another” are “worthy of death”. Smith also shared posts from a ‘Straight Pride’ page and anti-transgender memes.
However this week Durham County Council confirmed it would take no action against Smith, dismissing a string of complaints about his conduct.
The council ruled that Smith has the right to “freedom of expression” and that his posts were not made in an official capacity.
Smith celebrated the decision.
He said: “I’m grateful that the council has recognised my right to freely express my Christian faith while remaining a town councillor.
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“My faith in Christ is what drives me to help people regardless of their faith, disability, colour, culture, sexuality, or political persuasion. I have never let the convictions of my faith dictate who receives my help or the help from the church. I’ve always been motivated by the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus, a love that is full of mercy and grace.”
Smith had been supported by the Christian Legal Centre, an offshoot of anti-LGBT pressure group Christian Concern that frequently defends clients accused of anti-LGBT conduct.
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “We are delighted to have supported Richard – a caring and compassionate man, full of conviction and ideal for public service.
“He never should have been hounded out of his position as mayor, but we’re pleased that he can continue to serve the public as a town councillor.”
Smith previously blamed the controversy on a “small minority group” who “want me gone.”