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Anti-LGBT preacher banned from Ireland over 'abusive' views which were 'likely to stir up hatred'

Steven Anderson was the first person to be issued with an exclusion order preventing him from entering Ireland.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: signed first exclusion order against Steven Anderson in May
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: signed first exclusion order against Steven Anderson in May
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Charlie Flanagan banned a controversial anti-LGBT pastor from speaking in Ireland because he considered his views were “likely to stir up hatred”.

A copy of the exclusion order sent to Steven Anderson, seen by TheJournal.ie, reveals the minister’s motivation for using exclusion powers against an individual for the first time since laws were brought in to allow such an order to be made 20 years ago.

Anderson, who founded a Baptist church in the US state of Arizona, came to prominence when he said he had prayed for the death of former US President Barack Obama. He also praised the killings of 49 people in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016.

He was set to deliver a sermon in Dublin earlier this year, with a notice on his website saying he would preach in the capital on 26 May, but did not specify an exact time or location ahead of his planned visit.

The move led to the creation of an online petition calling for Anderson to be banned because of his anti-LGBT+ rhetoric, which attracted 14,000 signatures, as well as calls from Evangelical Alliance Ireland not to allow him into the country.

Flanagan subsequently confirmed that he had signed an order excluding Anderson from Ireland under Section 4 of the Immigration Act 1999.

A copy of the order, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows for the first time how Flanagan, Director General of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) Michael Kirrane and another employee explained their decision for the exclusion.

It begins by outlining the provision in the Immigration Act for Anderson’s exclusion and giving his personal details, before continuing:

In a YouTube video posted on 10 April 2019, Mr Steven Anderson confirmed his attention to travel to Ireland to preach on 26 May 2019 in Dublin, and this event is listed on the official website of his Church, the Faithful Word Baptist Church.
The above views and actions propounded and promoted are considered to be abusive and insulting and it is also considered that they are likely to stir up hatred.

The order explains that “incitement to hatred, and threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” are contrary to public policy and prohibited under Irish law.

It adds that in light of Anderson’s “previous conduct”, the government considered it likely that he would “continue to promote views similar to above” and that if he entered Ireland, he would engage in activities “contrary to public policy”.

However, the order did not specify which views held by Anderson were abusive, threatening or could incite hatred.

‘Exceptional power’

Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick, who called on the Minister to clarify his reasons for the order in May, said reasons contained in the order for Anderson’s exclusion remained unclear.

“This is an exceptional power, and the justification for its use is on national security grounds, which is a high threshold,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“But there’s nothing that specifies why that power was used in the order – there’s only reference to an intention to enter the State.”

Herrick argued that because of its significance, the Minister’s use of the power to exclude Anderson from entering Ireland should be justified, particularly if he believed there was a security risk involved.

“If that was the case, that may have been something we could have engaged with it,” he said, adding it was an issue of public concern which has not been addressed.

The Minister did not give a reason for issuing the exclusion order at the time, noting only that he did so in the interests of public policy.

The ban followed Anderson’s exclusion from the UK and a ban on him entering the 26 Schengen area countries in Europe.

Following his exclusion, Anderson said Ireland would “feel the wrath of God” because of the decision, but said he would not beg to be allowed into the country.

“Ireland, apparently, hates the preaching of God’s word, they hate the truth and so Ireland is going to be punished and destroyed by God,” he told Irish radio station Classic Hits.

“I think the goal with banning me from Ireland or not letting me come is to try paint me as a radical or as an extremist when really most of my views are shared by millions and millions of people, normal people.”

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