Hate crime bigot targets Lancaster vicar

A police investigation has been launched after the vicar of Lancaster received 'vitriolic' homophobic hate mail through the post.

The vicar of Lancaster the Rev Chris Newlands.
The vicar of Lancaster the Rev Chris Newlands.

Rev Chris Newlands, Church of England vicar at Lancaster Priory, received the handwritten letter on January 16.

Mr Newlands, who is openly gay, told the Lancaster Guardian that his message of achieving equality for all people was now more important than ever.

A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police said it was investigating a hate crime.

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu with the Vicar of Lancaster Priory the Rev Chris Newlands.

Mr Newlands, who has been an advocate for the LGBT community both in Lancaster and nationally, said he had received hate mail in the past, but this latest correspondence was “beyond the pale”.

He said: “People need to know that this kind of hate mail is unacceptable.

“It’s very hard to get into the mindset of someone who writes that sort of vitriolic abuse which is designed to offend and cause damage.

“But I’m not letting it get to me.

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu with the Vicar of Lancaster Priory the Rev Chris Newlands.

“I’m quite secure with who I am, and in what I’m trying to do, which is to achieve equality for all people and peace and love, those two terms are still as important in the world today as they ever have been.

“People who spout hatred and use this kind of language are sadly becoming more common.”

Mr Newlands posted excerpts of the letter to his Facebook social media page, where friends encouraged him to contact police.

Mr Newlands said “it then gets a lot worse”, attacking his family, and words he wouldn’t repeat online.

But he said he remained defiant about the abuse, adding: “On the contrary, it means that the message that I’m talking about is even more needed in the world, and I’ll not be stepping down but indeed stepping up.

“I have received hate mail before which I have ignored, but this went beyond that and made reference to violence which was beyond the pale really, and that can’t go unreported.”

Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn said: “The Church of England has a policy of zero tolerance of homophobic behaviour and this kind of anonymous abuse of one of our clergy in hateful written correspondence is totally unacceptable.

“We note that quite correctly the matter has been reported to the police and we are told they are taking the situation very seriously.

“We offer our support and prayers to Chris, his family and everyone connected with Lancaster Priory in the hope that this behaviour will not be repeated.”