A pastor and local councilor in Ferryhill, County Durham, the U.K., says he's been forced to resign from his position as mayor of Ferryhill because LGBT activists have targeted his family and his church with abuse for his conservative views on sexuality and marriage.
Christian Concern said on Wednesday that a free speech rally was scheduled in Ferryhill in support of Richard Smith, the mayor who resigned last week.
Smith says he experienced online abuse by LGBT activists who accused him of homophobia and Islamophobia for various Facebook posts that positioned his support for marriage as a union solely between one man and woman.
"Councillor Smith has posted nothing illegal. He is a pastor of a church and nothing he has said contradicts the teaching of the Bible. An aggressive lobby is determined to distort those views, take them out of context, and ultimately silence and remove anyone who adheres to them," said Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern.
"Councillor Smith serves as a local pastor and politician, motivated by his faith and love for the people of his community. What kind of system hangs him out to dry?"
Smith, who was elected as mayor of Ferryhill in May, and has been the pastor of Emmanuel Christian Fellowship in Ferryhill since 2003, wrote in a letter that he's resigning with "deep and profound sadness."
"Over recent weeks I have been subjected to unprecedented levels of adverse publicity, publicity that has been orchestrated for political advantage, and has threatened both my church, family, and colleagues alike," the pastor shared.
He revealed that his son, an Afghanistan War veteran who suffers severe PTSD, has also been targeted, which left him with little choice but to resign in order to protect his family.
"It has got so bad I now have involved the police," he 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."
He said that although he is stepping down as mayor, he's looking to remain a council member and to participate in efforts to benefit his town.
"I trust that my resignation now puts an end to the vendetta being waged against me, my family, Church and colleagues. My Faith in Christ is what drives me to help people regardless of their faith, color, culture, sexuality, or political persuasion," Smith said.
"I have never let the convictions of my faith dictate who receives my help or the help from the Church, it has always been the Love of God that is found in Christ Jesus, a love that is full of Mercy and Grace," he added.
"People who really know me and Lauraine and the Church can truly comment on how hard we have lovingly worked to help and provide for those in need, this has now been decimated by the minority mob along with those wishing to score political points and who have a God-phobia."
BBC News noted that local drag artist Tess Tickle was one of the main voices to speak out against Smith and share his social media activity, which activists claim encourages homophobia.
"I was in total shock and disbelief that the mayor of Ferryhill was posting such hate against homosexuality, Islam and transgender people," Tickle said in June.
"Everybody's entitled to their own views and beliefs. However, sharing things in a public domain in a position of power ... it's not acceptable," Tickle asserted.
"I thought, it needs to be highlighted. But the reaction's been more than I ever thought. It's been shared like crazy."