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Complaints dismissed against Christian ex-mayor accused of homophobia

Sun 05 Aug 2018
By Tola Mbakwe

A former Christian town mayor in County Durham has had formal complaints about his conduct on social media dismissed.

A number of activists, led by drag artist Tess Tickle, campaigned for Richard Smith to be stripped of his title as Mayor of Ferryhill last month over Facebook posts that they deemed "homophobic, transphobic and extremist.”

Smith, who's also a pastor, said he was expressing biblical views when he shared an article which referred to homosexuality as "sin" and made a comment that people are not allowed to "speak the truth" about transgenderism.

 

He stepped down from his role in July, but remained a town councillor after what he described as "weeks of adverse publicity".

Activists also made formal complaints to Durham County Council accusing Smith of dishonesty relating to the distribution of food to the needy by Immanuel Christian Fellowship, of which he is a trustee.

According to the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Smith, the complaints were dismissed to due Smith’s right to freedom of expression, and the fact that  none of his posts were made in his official capacity as a councillor or as mayor.

The legal group added: “The complaint alleging dishonesty provided no supporting evidence of its claims and no official complaints have been made to Greggs or Immanuel Christian Fellowship about the distribution of food.”

Smith said the allegations were "damaging to his integrity" and politically motivated, following the first change in the balance of power in the town council for 118 years.

Reacting to the decision, Smith said he’s grateful that his right to freely express his Christian faith while remaining a town councillor has been recognised.

“My faith in Christ is what drives me to help people regardless of their faith, disability, colour, culture, sexuality, or political persuasion,” he added.

“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."

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