The Home Secretary has banned two extremist anti-gay preachers from entering Britain, a move that follows a decision to refuse entry to Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Muslim MP.
Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper, who belong to the US Westboro Baptist Church, were planning to come to the UK to protest outside a performance of a youth play called The Laramie Project, which recounts the death of gay university student Matthew Shepard who was killed in Laramie, Wyoming, in October 1998.
The pair have been known to picket US soldiers’ funerals, holding up banners with phrases such as “God Hates Fags” because they believe that their deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are punishment for America’s tolerance of gays.
Their exploits, and that of their sect as a whole, were exposed in 2007 by Louis Theroux, the TV documentary-maker.
Confirming their ban, a UK Border Agency spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has excluded both Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper from the UK.
“Both these individuals have engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a number of communities.
“The Government has made it clear it opposes extremism in all its forms.
“We will continue to stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.
“That was the driving force behind the tighter rules on exclusion for unacceptable behaviour that the Home Secretary announced on October 28 last year.
“The exclusions policy is targeted at all those who seek to stir up tension and provoke others to violence regardless of their origins and beliefs.”
As well as Mr Phelps, 79, and Shirley, 51, any other church members who try to enter Britain are also likely to be stopped, the agency said.