A BBC radio presenter has been removed from his job after he called accused a Christian guest of “bigotry” and “homophobia” thanks to her defence of the Bible. Both the BBC and the presenter, Iain Lee, apologised for the interview which they admitted was “inappropriate.” Mr Lee subsequently confirmed on Twitter that he will not be returning to the show.
In early November, the BBC invited Libby Powell, a lawyer with Christian Concern, on to Mr Lee’s breakfast show on BBC Three Counties Radio to discuss the case of Revd Barry Trayhorn , a minister who was taking his employer to a tribunal over claims that he was unfairly forced out of his job.
Revd Trayhorn, a Pentecostal minister, volunteers to discuss Christianity with inmates at the chapel of Littlehey Prison in Cambridgeshire. In giving a sermon on forgiveness, Revd Trayhorn referred to a passage in Corinthians which describes homosexual behaviour as sinful.
The prison responded by barring him from participating in future services, claiming that the verses were homophobic. Revd Trayhorn alleges that he was then forced out of his job as a horticulturist at the prison over the next few months.
After inviting Ms Powell, who represented Revd Trayhorn at his tribunal, to explain the case, Mr Lee paused, then asked “Do you support bigotry?”
Ms Powell responded “This is not bigotry”, to which Mr Lee replied. “Yes, yes, homophobia is bigotry. So do you support bigotry?”
Mr Lee then proceeded to read out the verses from Corinthians before stating “that is bigoted”.
Over the next five minutes Mr Lee went on to call Revd Trayhorn “obnoxious” and poisonous”, and to repeatedly call both him and Ms Powell “homophobic”.
He asked if Revd Trayhorn would embrace gay people and was told by Ms Powell that he would.
“Bit gay,” replied Mr Lee.
Following the interview (which can be heard in full here), Christian Concern asked its supporters to challenge the BBC over the “intolerant” interview. The BBC later admitted the language and tone used by Mr Lee was “at several points inappropriate”.
A statement from senior editorial staff added: “The BBC – and Iain Lee himself – wish to apologise for any offence that may have been caused.”
Mr Lee also apologised on air, saying: “Last week I interviewed the Revd Barry Trayhorn and solicitor Libby Powell about their understanding of biblical teaching on homosexuality.
“I want to make it clear that I apologise for any offence that may have been caused over the way I conducted the interviews.”
However, over the weekend he took to Twitter to confirm that he would not be returning to the show, answering a query by a fan to that end with a blunt “no.”
— Iain Lee (@iainlee) November 14, 2015
Executives at the BBC have refused to say whether Mr Lee was fired. However, in a statement made to Pink News, the BBC confirmed “Iain Lee will no longer be presenting his shows on the station but we want to take this opportunity to thank him and wish him well for the future.”
A number of well-known people, including authors, fellow radio presenters and actors have rallied around Mr Lee on Twitter, offering their support for his views and the way he expressed them.
Bad news that @iainlee has left his breakfast show. He’s brilliant
— Christian O’Connell (@OC) November 15, 2015
Mr Lee also made it clear on Twitter that, despite his apology, he stands by the views expressed in the interview.
I’m blocking so many people. I’ll make it easy. If you think gays and lesbians are sinners, please unfollow me.
— Iain Lee (@iainlee) November 13, 2015
Gays and lesbians won’t go to hell. That’s a fact. X
— Iain Lee (@iainlee) November 12, 2015