A TOWN mayor at the centre of a social media storm over his posts about gay people and Muslims has resigned.

Ferryhill Town Councillor Richard Smith said it was with "profound sadness" that he decided to relinquish the role of mayor but he could no longer bear to see his family, colleagues or church threatened due to the backlash.

Calls were made for Cllr Smith, a pastor with the Immanuel Christian Fellowship, to resign after posts he shared about homosexuality being a sin and what he believes were Islamist fundamentalists kicking over British soldiers’ graves became public.

He said: “It is with deep and profound sadness that after considerable deliberation I have decided to relinquish the role of Mayor of Ferryhill Town Council.

"Over recent weeks I have been subjected to unprecedented levels of adverse publicity, publicity that has been orchestrated for political advantage, and has threatened my church, family and colleagues alike.

“Whilst the instigators are very much in the minority, as evidenced by the widespread messages of support I have received, I realise my ability to serve the people of Ferryhill in the manner I would have wished will always be subject to disruption and intimidation.”

He intends to remain a town councillor.

Female impersonator Tess Tickle, Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson and opposition Labour town councillors were among those who felt his position as the town’s civic representative had become untenable and felt his views were unacceptable.

Cllr Smith, 59, said: “To be denied the opportunity to hold personal views was never my expectation when I undertook the role of town mayor, and it is a matter of sincere regret to me that those personal views have been so tragically and outrageously twisted and reported on in order to discredit both myself and my faith.

“I believe everybody has a right to chose who they are but my perspective, being a Christian and a minister, is what the Bible says. I have no hatred to anyone who chooses that lifestyle, but don’t want to be forced to accept it.”

The grandfather-of-five said some critics had threatened to disrupt events he planned to attend and the online abuse and intimidation was so bad he reported it to police.

He said one of his three sons – like him an Army veteran – was targeted along with fellow independent councillors even though they did not share his beliefs.

Cllr Smith said: “It is important to get back to some form of normality as a town council, and for ourselves as a family and fellowship to build the community rather than see it destroyed by malicious gossip and mob mentality.”