Television personality and columnist Katie Hopkins, who once compared migrants crossing the Mediterranean to cockroaches, has claimed she is the "new Jesus".
Hopkins said: "Jesus had followers. I have 600,000 followers on Twitter. It is about leading the way. There will be a lot of Judases among you but I accept that. I welcome Judas into my heart. I am the new Jesus."
Addressing an audience at the Church and Media Network conference that included Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson and many leading theologians, lobbyists and Christian clergy, writers and thinkers, Hopkins described how she was sponsored by the Intelligence Corps at university and did military training at Sandhurst but failed to "pass out" because her medical records disclosed she suffered from epilepsy.
She still has regular night-time seizures, as a result of which her arms have been disclocated from her shoulder sockets 34 times in the last 12 months.
In a Q&A with television personality Torin Douglas, she said she was "Jesus of the outspoken" and planned to write a book that she will call "The Bible of Katie Hopkins".
She attended a convent school as a child where she said she had her left hand tied behind her back to force her to write with her right hand. "That's nuns for you, if we're going to talk about religion. I'm not sure nuns are nice people." She admitted she was angry with religion.
"I went to Sunday school, my mum and dad are Methodist. I find religion to be at the heart of so much conflict. I get angry at religion in the same way people get angry at me."
Hopkins added that she recognised the good that churches can do in the community but repeated criticism of food banks that she has made in the past, "If you give away free food people will always take it". She said: "We are not all equal. If you can't afford to feed your family and own an iPhone, you are stupid."
Hopkins also said she did not regret the things she has said and written, but regrets people's reactions. She did not think she was universally hated, and saw her role as articulating the views people think but do not speak. She said she saw herself as brave, "I'm a pioneer in an age of political correctness."
Hopkins added: "I have never apologised for anything I've said. I find it very disappointing when people apologise. You should have the positive moral attitude to stand by what you say."
She claimed to be a positive role model. "Lots of young girls, women, ladies find it reaffirming that there's someone with a strong view. But I accept there's another 50 per cent who hate my guts."
Earlier this year, Hopkins wrote that she did not care about the plight of refugees who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean. "Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don't care," she wrote. "Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit 'Bob Geldof's Ethiopia circa 1984', but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors."
Hopkins, who on Twitter @KTHopkins describes herself as: "Gained & lost 3.5 stones proving fat people are lazy. The Apprentice who fired Lord Sugar," recently left the Sun newspaper and is now a columnist for Mail Online.
Bishop Wilson tweeted:
The Rev Rosie Harper tweeted:
#ThemAndUs15 - slightly freaked out by Katie Hopkins saying gross things in a soft 'reasonable' voice— rosie harper (@rosieswiss) October 13, 2015
On behalf of the conference, Andy Walton, who is also a writer with Christian Today, defended the invitation to Katie Hopkins and said there were Biblical precedents. "I don't think Jesus avoided conversations with controversial people. What we're offering here is a conference examining media for Christians and others who work in the media. What we're not doing is having this as a pastoral event. This isn't a safe space - it's a space to explore the burning issues that are facing Christians who work in the media today. We are convinced that for Christians to play a significant role in the media we can't just hide in a holy huddle. We have actually to get involved."
Steve Cox, chair of Church Media Network, said: "We invited Katie Hopkins because our conference was about polarisation. Katie has a way of describing people that is different to many other commentators and is sometimes disparaging, and we wanted to understand why she chooses to do this. She made some points about liberalism, tolerance and acknowledging opposing points of view, and welcomed challenge from our audience about some of the things she has said."
He added: "There had been some discussion in advance about whether other speakers would be happy to share a dressing room with her but on the day we used one green room for all our speakers, and it worked out well."