Ireland bars Christian fundamentalist pastor from entering country

An anti-gay US Christian fundamentalist pastor who has been accused of Holocaust denial has become the first person to be barred from entering Ireland under a 20-year-old immigration law.

Steven Anderson was due to travel to Dublin on 26 May to preach in the city, but the Irish justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, took the unusual step to ban him from coming into the country.

More than 14,000 people signed an online petition set up by the Christian gay rights campaign group Changing Attitude Ireland calling on the Irish government to block Anderson’s trip to the country. The organisation claimed that in the past he had “advocated exterminating LGBT+ people”.

Confirming the barring order under the 1999 Immigration Act, Flanagan said: “I have signed the exclusion order under my executive powers in the interest of public policy.”

It is the first time the Irish government has used the legislation to bar anyone from the country.

The US preacher has said he prays at night for Barack Obama to die. He also posted praise online for the gunman who murdered 49 people at an LGBT nightclub in Florida in 2016. In the same year Anderson was deported from Botswana after saying in an interview with a local radio station that gay people should be killed.

It is understood Anderson, 38, was scheduled to give a sermon to 150 followers at a secret location in the Irish capital on the fallout from the legalisation of abortion in Ireland last year.

Jewish organisations in the US have also accused Anderson of promoting Holocaust denial.

The Anti-Defamation League said a video Anderson posted from his base in Arizona in 2015 showed him arguing that millions of Jews were not gassed and burned in ovens but rather died of hunger and disease in Nazi concentration camps. The video, titled Marching to Zion, also repeats the antisemitic trope that Jews lied about the Holocaust in order to create the state of Israel.

Anderson set up his Faithful Word Baptist Church on Christmas Day 2005. It is not affiliated to any mainstream Christian churches across the world although Anderson claims his lectures have been translated into 115 languages.

The gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell welcomed the Irish government’s decision. “His glorification of mass murder crosses a red line. It is more than mere hate. Ireland is right to ban him.”

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