Christian councillor exonerated after investigation into Pride tweet

Cllr King Lawal.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A tweet by a Christian councillor criticising the Pride movement is not homophobic, the Conservative Party has concluded after a six month investigation.

Cllr King Lawal, 31, was suspended as a councillor at North Northamptonshire Unitary Council last July after he tweeted that "Pride is a sin not a virtue". 

The full tweet, which was later deleted, read: "When did Pride become a thing to celebrate. Because of Pride Satan fell as an arch Angel. Pride is not a virtue but a Sin. Those who have Pride should Repent of their sins and return to Jesus Christ. He can save you. #PrideMonth #Pride23 #PrideParade."

He said he posted the tweet after becoming concerned about the adult nature of some Pride events despite being attended by children. 

In response to the tweet, he had the whip removed by the local Conservative Group at the council and was removed from various positions, including chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee and vice-chair of the Scrutiny Management Board.

In a further twist, Anthony Stevens, a councillor on Wellingborough Town Council, was arrested at home in front of his children for an alleged hate crime after speaking in support of Lawal. The police later decided to take no further action.

Defending his views, Lawal later tweeted, "When Christians refer to 'sin' or 'sinners' we are speaking of ourselves. We are not singling out specific people or groups of people as sinners.

"Sin according to the Bible includes lying, stealing, gossip and hatred, not just things like homosexuality, adultery and sex outside of the marriage. Jesus said that even to have unholy thoughts that we never act on is sinful. Therefore every single one of us is sinful by this standard, including myself.

"I therefore do not come against those celebrating Pride to attack who they are, my intention was to say that I would not celebrate this any more than I would celebrate a month of gossip or anything else the bible calls sin."

A complaint alleged that the original post was homophobic and that Lawal had "failed to sustain" and was "in conflict with the purpose, objects and values of the Conservative Party".

A disciplinary sub-committee at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) has now concluded its investigation into his original tweet and rejected the complaint.

In a written judgement sent to the councillor this week, the panel said "it would be wrong to conflate an objection to the Pride movement as homophobic".

"The Panel recognises that [Cllr Lawal's] posts are a representation of his religious beliefs, which he is free and entitled to hold. Accordingly, the posts, whilst they may be offensive to some, would on balance not to be considered by a reasonable and fair-minded observer to be discriminatory or homophobic per se," it said. 

Lawal welcomed the judgment but said he was "appalled" to have been investigated in the first place.

"For over six months I have had the cloud of this investigation hanging over me, even when the local group reinstated me," he said. 

"What has happened to me is a microcosm of what is coming under a potential Labour government, and how in many ways significant factions of the Conservative Party have turned their back on their own supporters and values.

"How I have been treated is really troubling for a democratic society. It must ring alarm bells as this can now happen to anyone that is not in support of this extreme LGBT movement.

"The Bible tells us that to live out a true Christian calling you have to pick up your cross and that the world will hate you for standing for Him and truth. I am determined to continue to fight for justice and to clear my name and ensure that this does not happen to another person.

"My ambition for the future is to stand as an MP. This country and the Conservative Party especially, needs more passionate Christian leaders and politicians, not less. It is time that the true voice of the majority of Christians was heard in Parliament."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Cllr Lawal, said he had faced "unprecedented" repercussions for expressing his Christian beliefs.

"What happened demonstrates that Christians who hold public office can no longer express their beliefs without having their careers and lives dismantled," she said. 

"CCHQ should have stood by Cllr Lawal and defended his Christian freedoms instead of joining in the attack and mirroring intolerant Labour Party activists determined to eradicate Christian beliefs from the public square.

"What has happened to Cllr Lawal, and Cllr Anthony Stevens, has been a stain upon the Conservative and Labour parties, and more must be done to protect Christian MPs and councillors who express standard Christian beliefs on a range of important issues."