CALLS have been made to strip the Mayor of Ferryhill's title following posts about gay people and Islam on Facebook.

Christian preacher and recently elected mayor, Cllr Richard Smith, has come under fire tonight after posts were highlighted by fellow town resident and professional drag queen Tess Tickle.

The 32-year-old, who is gay and lives with her partner of ten years, condemned a stream of posts which labelled homosexuality as a sin and heralded "one man and one woman" as "God's order".

Cllr Smith this evening drew a distinction between his personal posts and public life and added anyone was welcome to his support "regardless of faith, culture, race, gender or sexuality".

A pastor at the Immanuel Christian Fellowship, based in Ferryhill, it appears Cllr Smith shared an anti-gay pride activist's video as well as a video headlined "Group of Muslims attack a Jewish family and their little children" - to which he commented: "This is supposed to be a religion of peace. I think not."

The Northern Echo:

CAMPAIGN: Tess Tickle has condemned posts shared by the Mayor of Ferryhill, Cllr Richard Smith

Miss Tickle, of Ferryhill Station, said she was alerted to the politician's posts earlier this week and felt compelled to raise awareness of his views and the promotion of "very idiotic quotes" within her community.

The fundraiser and drag performer said: "I totally understand that people's religious beliefs are there and everyone's entitled to their own opinions and views but when it's shared in the public domain, when you're in a position of authority and a public figure and you've got your own constituency it's alarming.

"Everybody matters, not just one community and that's not what he's portraying on his Facebook page.

"He uses his Facebook to share events and I feel like he's using his position to preach his views and values so I thought I'd use my platform to showcase the fact that everybody matters.

"This is what we have to fight against. That's why you've got people like us shouting from the rooftops saying we do deserve the same rights and equality and we're just the same as you are."

Miss Tickle said the final straw was earlier today when Cllr Smith shared an article from entitled Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins.

The author discusses homosexuality as "sexual immorality" and states: "As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God.

"And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake."

Miss Tickle has approached Ferryhill Town Council and Durham County Council calling on his views to be investigated.

Hundreds of people have reacted on Facebook to Miss Tickle's and Cllr Smith's posts - with some calling on him to resign his position or be stripped of his title.

A number of Ferryhill Town Council colleagues have also come out in support of the LGBT community and Miss Tickle's campaign against discrimination.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Cllr Smith, who was elected in May, said: "As a Christian and a minister of the church, anyone regardless of faith, culture, race, gender or sexuality is welcome to my support in my role as a pastor.

"If they are in need my door is always open.

"The posts are on my personal Facebook page and are not connected in any way to my role as the mayor of Ferryhill or as a councillor.

"I've considered the content of these posts and understand why they could be read as offensive which is why I have deleted them."

"I won't apologise for the conviction of my faith but I do regret any offence or harm caused as this was absolutely not my intention."

He added: "I fully support Mark's (Miss Tickle) work in his fundraising for the community of Ferryhill."

Miss Tickle added Cllr Smith did not know her on a personal level, only in her professional capacity as Tess Tickle.

She said: "I don't like the fact he referred to me as Mark. It shows to me that he won't call me Tess because it's against what he believes."