A Tory MP has launched an attack on Church of England bishops – and is facing mockery after he said they should stop “using the pulpit to preach from”.
Jonathan Gullis was told to “look up the meaning of Bishop in the dictionary” after blasting the senior clerics for “preaching” about refugees.
It comes after the prelates criticised the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda and said the idea should “shame us a nation”.
In June the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell and 23 others bishops had said refugees were “the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value”.
The High Court on Monday ruled the policy was lawful but that the cases of eight asylum seekers it was imposed on had not been properly considered by the Home Office.
Mr Gullis, MP for Stoke on Trent, went on BBC Radio’s 4’s Today programme following the judgement to defend the policy.
When the bishop’s criticism were put to him he replied: “I don’t think unelected bishops in the House of Lords should be preaching about politics.
“I think they should be looking in-house at the wide abuse claims that have gone on and the Archbishop of Canterbury should be spending his time focusing on [inaudible] the Church’s reputation.
“And I sadly think that too many people are using the pulpit to preach from.”
Mr Gullis said he believed bishops were “out of touch with the overwhelming majority of this great country” – before noting that the UK had a “democratic mandate to leave the European Union”.
Lib Dem Cabinet Office spokesperson Christine Jardine told The Independent: “Telling bishops they should stop preaching from the pulpit is a bit like telling Messi to stop scoring goals. I think Jonathan Gullis should look up the meaning of Bishop in the dictionary.”
Mr Gullis was last month criticised after he named on television a hotel where asylum seekers would be put up in his constituency – 48 hours after a firebomb attack on an immigration centre.