Streatham Guardian – 24th August, 2009.

Crystal Palace gay community question ‘homophobic’ cinema church promises

Members of Crystal Palace’s gay and lesbian community have raised concerns over what they say is a “homophobic” church hoping to open where campaigners want a cinema.

Evangelical church The Kingsway International Children’s Centre recently bought the former Gala Bingo hall in Church Road, and have submitted a planning application to Bromley Council for its use to be converted from community use to a place of worship.

It has promised to provide services for the whole community – including screening films – to appease thousands of residents campaigning against its application, who want to see the space remain in community use, and converted into a cinema.

But the gay and lesbian community have questioned “how welcome” the church will make them feel after uncovering a petition signed by the church’s pastor which says homosexuals and heterosexuals should not be treated as equals.

The petition – signed by KICC’s pastor Matthew Ashimolowo in 2006 – stated how the church was being discriminated against by the Government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations, which forces “Christians in churches, businesses, charities and informal associations to accept and even promote the idea that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality.”

The petition states: “This is not what the Bible teaches and it is not what we believe to be the truth.”

Gay Crystal Palace resident Tim Taylor said: “We would really question how this attitude can then translate to the church accepting “the whole community”.

“It is worrying the KICC feel they can hold this homophobic attititude. I hope the Crystal Palace community don’t stand for it.”

Thousands of campaigners intending to object to the church’s application, hoping for a cinema instead, were poised to submit their objections after KICC announced it had submitted its application.

However the council did not accept the application because it was not correctly completed, and therefore invalid. A second application is expected imminently.

A spokesman for the church has so far declined to comment.