A DUP councillor has apologised after he compared himself to Noah in the bible in a Facebook post in which he appeared to suggest the global coronavirus pandemic was the “judgement of God” on the legalisation of abortion and same sex marriage in Northern Ireland, and an “immoral and corrupt government”.
John Carson, who represents Ballymena, in County Antrim, the former stronghold of ex-leader Ian Paisley, has been criticised for his “disgraceful” Facebook post, which he said was “misinterpreted”.
In the original post, he wrote: “I said when abortion was legalised that our nation would be judged by God because of its departure from his word and the legalisation of the murder of the unborn child as well as same-sex marriage.
“I was laughed at and mocked by some but as I said at the time, they laughed at Noah until the rain started.
“You reap what you sow and our nation is now reaping the judgment of God because of an immoral and corrupt government.
“It is time to repent and turn again to the God of our fathers.”
The DUP, which strongly opposed Westminster legislation liberalising the law surrounding terminations, has distanced itself from the comments.
On Thursday, Mr Carson wrote: “Folks yesterday afternoon l put a post on Facebook which was taken by some and totally misinterpreted, anyone who knows me will know that l would not intentionally set out to cause hurt or offence to anyone and if l did then for that l humbly apologise.
“However l will never apologise for my Christian faith and will not be silenced by those that are opposed to the truth of God’s word.”
The Rainbow Project, a Belfast-based LGBT support organisation, told the Press Association Mr Carson’s post was “disgraceful but not at all surprising”.
Pro-choice campaigner Naomi Connor accused Mr Carson of “fundamentalist religious rhetoric”.
DUP economy minister Diane Dodds described Mr Carson’s Facebook posts as “a bit of a distraction”.
She said they did not reflect the views of the DUP and said party officers are likely to examine potential disciplinary action.
“They do not reflect the views of the vast majority of people,” she said.
“They are a bit of a distraction from what we all need to do... which is a very, very serious challenge of fighting against Covid-19.
“I think we should place on record our thanks to the churches and to those people who have faith for all that they have done as well in reaching out to the lonely, in reaching out to those who are isolated, in working in food banks.
“I believe that we have a God of love and mercy.
“And I think that’s where most people will take comfort.
“And I think that all faith communities in Northern Ireland have been working incredibly hard in challenging and very, very difficult circumstances.”
In regard to potential disciplinary action against Mr Carson, Ms Dodds said: “I’m presuming it will go to party officers – it certainly does not reflect the views of the DUP.”
Earlier this week, a senior DUP member claimed Northern Ireland has introduced the most extreme abortion laws in Europe.
Westminster MPs passed provisions on terminations last year in the absence of the powersharing Assembly.
The regulations will allow terminations on request for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 24 weeks in the case of a risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl.
Abortion will also be available in cases of severe and fatal foetal anomalies, with no gestational limit.
Campaigners have claimed many barriers still exist to terminations after 12 weeks, and they have called for greater use of telemedicine to provide pills, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Additional reporting by PA