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Defiant pastor lashes Anna Lo

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

Just hours before Anna Lo announced she wasn't going to quit Northern Ireland, a former Ulster Unionist election candidate suggested 'unborn babies' would welcome her departure.

Pastor Colin Houston said "unborn babies in their mothers' wombs" in Northern Ireland would be delighted to hear that Anna Lo was thinking of leaving the country.

And he said that if the Alliance politician stayed here, she should "remember she's in a Christian country" and start reading the Bible.

Pastor Houston, who unsuccessfully stood for election to the Belfast supercouncil, appeared on the BBC's Nolan Show last week strongly defending Pastor James McConnell and his controversial comments about Muslims.

The day following his TV stint, the UUP man resigned from the party after it suspended him. Houston, himself a pastor on the Shankill Road for 20 years, told Sunday Life he had no regrets. "My boss is Jesus, not Mike Nesbitt," he said.

And he warned that he might make a future political comeback: "I'm not ruling out a return to politics. It's the UUP's loss given the volume of support I've been getting."

Last week, Anna Lo announced that she was considering leaving Northern Ireland following remarks made by Peter Robinson in support of Pastor McConnell.

In an emotional interview, the Alliance politician also spoke of the impact a torrent of racist abuse was having on her life.

Pastor Houston said: "I wish her no harm. I've no problem with Anna Lo, just her morals. The unborn babies in their mothers' wombs will be glad to hear she is thinking of leaving Northern Ireland.

"She needs to pick up the bible and read it and understand Christian values. She needs to remember that she's in a Christian nation which protects life from the womb to the grave.

"She said the bible should be left outside the political chamber. She's wrong. It should be at the centre of the political chamber, the centre of Stormont. Our laws should be based on the bible and the boundaries it sets."

A staunch supporter of anti-abortion group Precious Life, Pastor Houston has taken part in many protests outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast. "I was there every day for a year and a half. It's not a picket, it's a vigil. .. we pray for lives to be saved," he said.

Anna Lo is on record as saying a woman should have the right to decide what to do with her body when faced with an unwanted pregnancy and the mother's health must take precedence over the unborn baby.

Last week on the Nolan TV show, Pastor Houston rounded on MP George Galloway, telling him to go "away back to Britain". Houston denied his remarks were in direct conflict with his unionist beliefs.

"I meant that he should go back across the water to England. It was disgraceful that he was mocking a man of God. George Galloway isn't fit to tie Pastor McConnell's shoelaces," he said.

Houston lambasted the media for "whipping up a frenzy" over the pastor's remarks on Muslims: "They've twisted the story to suit their own anti-Christian agenda. They've misrepresented and manipulated what he said. He is no bigot.

"I've known Jim 20 years. I've never preached in his church but I've listened to his sermons and I've shook hands with him. He has done a lot of good work.

"He's looked after invalids, turned terrorists into peacemakers and led thousands of people in Northern Ireland to the Lord. As a preacher, I understand why he said what he said. Instead of ridiculing Pastor McConnell, we should be thanking him for his long career and ministry to our nation."

Houston received 366 votes when he unsuccessfully stood in the Oldpark ward of Belfast. He said he had joined the UUP only three weeks before the election after being approached by party members who arranged for him to meet Sir Reg Empey at an east Belfast hotel to discuss his candidature.

"It's not as if they didn't know who I was or what I stood for," Houston said. "My views are clear on a range of moral and religious issues. I asked the UUP if I'd have to be silent or tone down my views on (these) issues.

"They said no, that these were matters for individual conscience as opposed to party policy. They said I wouldn't be hindered in any way in expressing my views."

The ex-UUP man accused the media of creating a furore over the Pastor McConnell's remarks on Islam while ignoring the plight of a Sudanese woman sentenced to death under Sharia law for refusing to renounce Christianity.

Meriam Ibrahim, 27, who gave birth to a baby girl while shackled in jail last week, had been condemned to die by hanging after declining to profess that she is a Muslim.

Said Pastor Houston: "This real life-and-death issue is being ignored. It should have been the main issue on Nolan – that's what our politicians should be debating and taking action on. Sharia law is wrong."

June 2, 2014

This article appeared in the June 1, 2014 edition of the Sunday Life.

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