Religious groups are boycotting Tesco after a senior executive at the supermarket giant described Christians as “evil” for opposing gay marriage.
Nick Lansley, Tesco’s head of research and development, said he was actively taking a stand “against evil Christians” who opposed the right of same-sex couples to marry.
In a message on his profile page on Flickr.com, he said: “I’m…campaigning against evil Christians (that’s not all Christians, just bad ones) who think that gay people should not lead happy lives and get married to their same-sex partners.”
The remarks, which have now been removed from the photo sharing website, caused outrage among Christian groups, who said they would refuse to shop in the chain’s stores in protest.
Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, said: “I won’t be shopping at Tesco this Christmas, and I am repeatedly hearing from other Christians who have already come to the same conclusion.
“Mr Lansley is entitled to his opinions, and Christians are entitled to choose not to shop at Tesco.”
The row comes a month after Tesco provoked controversy by reducing its support for the charity Cancer Research’s Race for Life while deciding to sponsor Pride London, Britain’s largest gay festival.
A Tesco spokesman said: “Mr Lansley’s comments, made in a personal capacity in 2008, in no way reflect the views of Tesco.
“Our values as a company are such that we abhor criticism of any religion, and we knew nothing about Mr Lansley’s comments until they were brought to our attention.
“We are very sorry that anyone might have thought that there was any blurring of the boundary between his personal comments and his work for Tesco. We have therefore asked him to remove the comments, and he has done so. ”
A study last month showed that only six places of worship out of more than 40,000 across the country want to host civil partnership ceremonies.
The Government Equalities Office’s consultation on the plan to allow same–sex unions on religious premises in England and Wales from next month, found that as many as 532 faith groups would “opt–in” to allow the events on their premises.
However, congregations of just four small churches and two Quaker groups said they would definitely consider “applying for approval of their religious premises for the registration of civil partnerships”.
Most of the country’s 46,155 places of worship where marriages may be solemnised opposed the plan, saying they believed it would blur the line between marriage and civil partnership.
They also feared it could lead to challenges under the Equality Act or human rights legislation from homosexual couples who want to be “married” in church.
The Government admits the response risks “a significant proportion of the demand not being met”. It predicted as many as 1,593 same–sex couples could want to hold their ceremonies in church each year.