A weekly newspaper has faced a backlash from readers after publishing a reader’s letter attacking homosexuals.
The Whitstable Times published a letter in last week’s paper under the headline “Take heed, all you homosexual sinners” in which a reader quotes a Bible verse implying homosexuals have “brought evil upon themselves”.
It led to an angry response from readers, with the paper subsequently publishing a series of seven letters online hitting out at the “homophobic” letter and the title for printing it.
The paper has also faced criticism on Twitter and has now told readers there will be two pages of letters in this week’s paper along with a comment from the editor about it.
Editor Rebecca Smith told HTFP: “The letters pages are a place for people to air their views. This letter did represent an extreme view and the headline summarised that view.
“Less than 20 people responded to the letter online or by email. While many of those who did respond were angered at the content, others said that this was a debate they are hearing in forums, such as churches, across the town.
“This letter has stimulated a debate and we will be publishing these views on the letters page.”
The title also published an article last Friday for National Coming Out Day and said this received more page views and retweets than responses to the letter.
In responding to criticism on Twitter, the title said that “people are allowed to express their opinions within the law” and encouraged people to send in letters in response.
The paper tweeted: “The letters page is intended to be a town debating place, and people have strongly held views on many topics. It’s not up to us to censor them unless they are defamatory or illegal. Inciting hatred/violence would be, expressing an opinion is not.”
However a number of readers’ letters have hit out at the “insulting” headline used by the paper.
Jo Frazer wrote: “As it happens I am less offended by the content of his letter (I live in Kent after all and encounter such homophobic views regularly) than I am by your paper’s chosen header.
“Why am I so offended by “Take Heed, all you homosexual sinners?” Well to me it is deliberately designed to be provocative and if it was genuinely innocuous why not apologise instantly for any offence caused.”
Another reader, S Frewin-Clarke, wrote: “Using this as a headline in 2013, shame on you. Whoever the quote was from, this headline jumps out at you, and will fuel the fire of the many ignorant homophobic people who, surprisingly, still exist.
“I will not be reading the Whitstable Times any more, the headline gives a good indication of the views of the editor and staff and although I believe in freedom of speech, I also believe journalists should be intelligent enough to create an article that does not offend.”
The controversial letter, by a Mr D Bryson, said: “The confrontational Stonewall slogan (Some people are gay, get over it) that is currently touring our city, towns and villages via Stagecoach buses has caused me to think and remember what is written by the prophet Isaiah 3-9:
“For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom: they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.”